BOSTON – A Los Angeles jury found Derrick Rose not liable in a sexual assault civil suit Wednesday, and perhaps we’ll wade into that cesspool another day. Rose’s image is in tatters, muddied by a steady stream of ugly testimony that while not deemed criminal — the verdict likely will end a police investigation – severely diminished his brand. His future as a pitchman may be over. As an effective NBA point guard? Now we will finally see.
Rose will return to New York, to the Knicks, to the team he is supposed to lead to the playoffs, and beyond. It has been 15 days since Rose was forced to leave for the trial, and could there have been a worse time for it? A new team, a new coach, a new system few players seemed enamored with. If the Knicks’ up-tempo, triangle-hybrid, whatever-you-want-to-call-it offense is going to be effective — and across the NBA, there are significant doubts — Rose is going to have to embrace it.
The good news is Rose is healthy. He played 66 games for the Bulls last season, the most since his 2010-11 MVP campaign. His 16.4 points were a ways off from the 20-plus he averaged in his heyday, and his 3-point shooting — never a strength — was 29.3 percent. But his game evolved. A relentless attacking style was replaced by a more controlled game. A commitment to enhancing a midrange game, he hopes, will make him a more complete player.
So much is riding on this Knicks season, for Rose, for Carmelo Anthony, for Phil Jackson, for everyone. Jackson’s two-plus years as president in New York have yielded squat, and Jackson’s insistence on forcing the triangle offense on (another) coach is perplexing. Another mediocre season and the talk won’t be if Jackson will abandon the Knicks, but if the team will cut ties with him.
Rose is Jackson’s wild card, his potential ace in the hole. ‘Melo is ‘Melo, and penciling him in for 22-plus points most nights is a given. Courtney Lee is a semi-reliable shooter, and Kristaps Porzingis is a rapidly evolving star. But Rose is … what exactly? Is he a broken-down scorer determined to get his in a contract year? Or will Rose, at 28, thrive in a new role in a city eager to embrace him?
“I’ve never played with a guy like Derrick,” Anthony said on the eve of Knicks camp last month. “I’ve played with point guards with different styles. To play alongside an explosive guy like Derrick, who can push the pace up across the game at that position, I think for me the only thing I could do is go out and enjoy playing basketball again. Have fun with the game.”
The Knicks have stayed in close contact with Rose, but there is only so much a team can do from thousands of miles away. There was talk of sending a coach, but Rose’s preparation has consisted only of a steady diet of film work and daily workouts in what his lawyer described as a $5 million gym nearby. Conditioning may not be an issue, but the Knicks know there will be some bumpy moments along the way.
“I think he’s obviously relieved it’s over with,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said of the trial. “His focus has been basketball, that’s what he keeps telling us. So we think he’ll be back and in there training with the guys. [We] will have to get him up to speed on some of the things that we put in. So we think he can do that.”
Rose is motivated, and he should be: The Knicks represent something of a last stand. There will be a market for him come the end of the season, but his ability to tap into the NBA’s new revenue with a long-term contract hinges on what happens this season. No one expects the old Rose, the ’11 Rose, but a steady, efficient player who can still ramp it up when needed? That’s one they will pay for.
The civil trial is now behind him, and Rose has to be relieved. He refused to settle, hell-bent, no matter what sordid details came out, to clear his name. The scars from days of sordid testimony are real, and the picture of Rose posing with slap-happy jurors is sure to make anyone cringe. But it’s over. Now, a different challenge lies ahead. [/restrict]