Derrick Rose will return to game action at Madison Square Garden tonight (Thursday) for the first time since his abrupt and brief exit from the Knicks on Monday. Ironically, he will face his former team, the Chicago Bulls. Rose was back in the lineup last night in Philadelphia to challenge the 76ers as the Knicks looked to post only their second win since Dec. 25.
Monday night at the Garden was one of the more bizarre and confounding times for Knicks’ personnel and the media in recent memory. No definitive news was leaking as to Rose’s whereabouts leading up to tipoff versus the New Orleans Pelicans. By tipoff rumors swirled. When the game concluded, which turned out to be another debilitating Knicks’ loss, falling 110-96 and tumbling deeper into a hole, the media was thirsting for information. None was immediately provided.
It wasn’t until roughly 40 minutes later in the crowded locker room that Rose’s good friend, Joakim Noah, informed the press corps he had spoken with his former Bulls and current Knicks teammate and that “He’s OK.”
Tuesday, Rose was back and said his actions were compelled by a family matter pertaining to his mother, cryptically expressing, “It had nothing to do with the team or basketball,” he said. “That’s the first time I ever felt like that emotionally and I had to be with my family.”
The 28-year-old native of Chicago also made amends with members of the Knicks organization and his teammates, explaining, “I didn’t want any distractions to the team, especially what we have going on right now and I apologized to them, just letting them know it will never happen again,” Rose offered. “This wasn’t me. This never happened to me before and I explained that to the team and the front office.”
So what’s next? Rose was fined an undisclosed amount by the Knicks. Reactionaries are calling for the Knicks to trade him.
That would be imprudent, especially if the trade was simply based on this singular incident. It is dubious the Knicks would get a first-round pick or young rotation player for Rose, so trading him for anything less would not be wise, particularly since he is on the final year of his contract. A trade involving Rose is reasonable only if it would produce a strong foundational piece.
Plagued by injuries over the past four seasons, by and large, Rose has been healthy and productive, averaging 17.3 points and 4.5 assists, in 32 minutes per game in 33 games with the Knicks before facing the 76ers. His points and assists averages are only slightly below his career averages of 19.5 and 6.1. While Rose is the story for the moment, he is only a diversion from much more pressing problems confronting the Knicks.
At 17-21 heading into last night’s game, nothing about the Knicks bore resemblance to a playoff team. The Rose fiasco just happened to come at a time when the team has nosedived. On Christmas Day, the Knicks were a promising 16-14. They lost to the Boston Celtics that afternoon to start a stretch in which they would muster only one win over the next 10 games. So Rose’s disappearance advanced a misconception that the franchise and by extension the team is in a state of dysfunction.
The Knicks are not dysfunctional. They are just a bad team right now. Their troubles begin and end on the defensive end of the court, where Rose and most of his teammates have been inadequate. The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 23. The Knicks’ president, Phil Jackson, will know well before then if his team has a chance to make the playoffs.
If not, then Rose, Carmelo Anthony—who has a no-trade clause—and every other veteran who can help a contender and bring back long-term value should be considered a trade option.