Nothing is guaranteed in sports. Every player is mortal. Even the most gifted players—those biologically crafted to execute like a machine—eventually break down.
Some are exquisite machines that function at supreme levels when constructed correctly, but harbor defects that render it useless over time. Chicago Bulls backcourt wrecking-device Derrick Rose can certainly relate. The Chi-Town Prince has a torn meniscus in his right knee and will undergo surgery, the team said Tuesday.
It’s his third major knee injury in the past two and a half seasons and a devastating blow for an NBA great who was rounding back into lethal weapon shape as the playoff run approaches. After a slow start returning from injury, Rose is averaging 18.4 points and 5.0 assists in 46 games this season and averaged 22.6 points over his final 14 games before the All-Star break.
However, Rose’s recent suspect play sparked accurate suspicions about his health as he shot 8-of-34 (23.5 percent) in his last three games. Then, according to the Bulls, Rose reported on Tuesday with right knee pain and an exam and subsequent MRI confirmed the NBA community’s worst nightmare.
“This is now becoming a reoccurring theme and it’s a shame...all he wanted to do was get through the season healthy, said ESPN analyst Tim Legler, who had two ACL tears in his NBA career. Legler appeared with Brad Daugherty and Chris Brousard on ESPN and discussed the issue. “This is just such a devastating blow for this team (Chicago Bulls) because when he is on and playing on the highest level he does things that nobody in the league can replace.”
Yeah, Rose is in a bad way right now. At least he got to become an MVP of the NBA and rise to the highest status in his chose profession, before his knee defects kicked in. Before we go feeling sorry for Rose, let’s remember that he did live the American Dream. He put in the work. Made mega bank through contracts and endorsements and regardless of his future on the court, he can now go out there and do something way bigger than basketball with that gwop. Rose should be financially set for life.
That’s more than I can say for one of my basketball heroes. He’s less-heralded than Rose on a worldwide scale, but his name holds weight in certain parts of the Northeast.
“Only a fool invests the total energies of his life in an athletic career.” Trigger Trey told me that. He was a kid who dominated basketball on the playgrounds when I was in elementary school. One of those “local legends.” He left to go down south to a prep high school as I started junior high and everyone just knew he’d be in the NBA in a few years. Eventually he received a scholarship to a D-I school, but as fate would have it, he slipped off a roof in Louisiana helping an elderly family repair their home and ripped his knee and hip to shreds. He never played basketball again and to this day walks with a limp.
We used to call him “Trigger” because he had a quick release and spit jumpers with the accuracy and consistency of an automatic weapon with infrared scoping. Now the name still fits, but it’s because he’s an old head who walks as if he took numerous buck shots to the leg. That’s how fast Peking Duck can turn into potato fried poop.
Trigger told me those words of wisdom one afternoon when I was entering high school and he was hobbling along, rocking a LA Lakers fitted on his way to the local store to cop a Dutch Master cigar. He never thought about life without basketball and still can’t stand too. I guess that’s why he smokes his life away in a cloud of Kush. To hide the pain, which I can still see in his eyes.
He never considered the possibility of getting injured before he even got a chance to buss’ ass in college.
One of his favorite movies was The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh featuring hoops god Dr. J.
All these years later, Trigger is still trying to deal with life after basketball. Trey "Trigger" Winfield, now a jailhouse preacher in North Carolina, tells me to this day: “I was the fish who just couldn’t swim. Never had a chance to get to the top of the ocean surface.”
Returning home, never having achieved the mission he set out to accomplish and in the process, letting down an entire community of folks whose self-worth is directly connected to the monumental aspirations of their local hero, had a lasting effect on Trigger and his hood.
As I walk through the b-ball graveyard of the litany of potential NBA superstars (Grant Hill, Danny Manning, Brandon Roy, Bobby Hurley, Ron Harper, Bernard King, Sean Elliot, Sam Bowie, etc.) that succumbed to injury before fulfilling their athletic destinies, it strikes me that they all must have had that moment of truth when they knew it was a wrap. If their career wasn’t over, then their VIP standing as a head-honcho on the hardwood certainly was. Trigger lived that. I used to feel bad for him too, but continously seeing unexpected injuries occur to angelic basketball souls can put things into perspective. You realize that such ultimate highs are unattainable to most with a passion towards elite achievement in the first place. And the lows are bottomless, devastating and debilitating pits that most players have to crawl out of by themselves.
Maybe Rose already knew that he had pushed his athletic career to the limits when he made those remarks about preserving his body for the future and playing fewer minutes back in November of 2014. He was speaking as if the sands of the hour glass were short and the road to retirement was around the corner. It rubbed some cats the wrong way because a 26-year-old rocket-launcher and hoops wizard can’t be talking in such defeatist tones. Others were more protective of their mighty mouse point guard and insisted he just needed time to heal.
Maybe he was preparing us for an outcome that we as fans weren’t ready to accept, but Rose already had.
"I know a lot of people get mad when they see me sit out or whatever, but I think a lot of people don't understand that when I sit out it's not because of this year," Rose said. "I'm thinking about long term. I'm thinking about after I'm done with basketball having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to.
"I don't want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my son's graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past. (I'm) just learning and being smart."
Basketball heads went crazy and attacked his character as media outlets questioned his heart and his dedication to the game. Some folks said the money had made him soft. I just think that mentally Rose checked out after that second injury. In contemplating Rose’s next move, Brousard also alluded to the guard's psycological battle on ESPN's telecast.
“(It's tough) mentally, to go through this again when you’ve been doing this (rehabbing) for the past three years… and then even, when you get back its going to be in your mind that it might happen again… I hope that we have not seen the best of D Rose already, but it’s starting to look like that’s the case.“
This latest torn meniscus is the same injury he sustained in Nov. 23, 2013, against the Portland Trail Blazers. Prior to that injury Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs against Philadelphia, which forced the 2011 NBA MVP to miss the entire next season. Rose was scratched for one game last month for soreness in his left knee and missed four games in November with a hamstring injury.
For all my dawgs locked down behind the steel gates that don’t get to watch much TV, I hope you get that release date soon. You can’t blink in sports. Trey blinked and his life changed in a split second. You definitely might miss something. In this case, it would be the grander-than-grand, flash-in-the-pan career of Derrick Rose.