For 2011 NBA MVP turned perpetually injured journeyman Derrick Rose, last night was a long time coming. After the game, his emotions were as raw as his play was perfection. Rose pulled out all the stops against the Utah Jazz. Spin moves, crossovers, a game-saving block near the buzzer – Rose was clearly in the zone, and nothing Utah conjured up could stop him.
With all he’s been through – the injuries, the adversity and the trade deals, Derrick Rose is an easy guy to root for. The same Utah Jazz franchise that waived him less than a year ago couldn’t compensate for Rose’s skill set and ferocious determination. One can’t help but grin seeing Rose, surrounded by his teammates, dousing him with liquid – king for a night. On top of his career-high 50-point performance, he also doled out 6 assists. Unselfish and disciplined, Rose must have known it was his night. The question now becomes: how good can Derrick Rose get this season?
Rose and the rest of the Timberwolves will be tested right away – a road trip at Oracle Arena to play 8-1 Golden State looms. It will no doubt be interesting to see what Thibideau and the Wolves can do to try and contain Curry and Thompson, who have had some career games of their own this season.
The Timberwolves will then embark on the rest of their road journey, where they will face only one team with a losing record thus far – LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers. While they will have to run that onerous road gauntlet, Rose’s heroics last night are encouraging, and the Wolves must feel confident with what they have in the 3-time NBA All-Star.
Derrick Rose is only 30 years old, but he’s an old 30, based on all that his body has been through. One can’t help but wonder how much he has left in the tank. If last night was any indication, the Western Conference may need to raise an eyebrow in the coming weeks. As important as his play and durability will be throughout this season, Rose must continue to embrace being a team leader as well for the Wolves to succeed come playoff time.
It doesn’t feel like long ago when Rose ripped apart defenses and attacked the basket on his way to that MVP award. Now, eight years later, Rose is the elder statesman, whose own adversity can be a beacon and bridge to teammates facing similar struggles – both mental and physical.
As a sports fan, I’ve enjoyed watching Rose play. I wanted him to be healthy when he was with the Bulls, Knicks and Cavs. Seeing him rise to the occasion after all that heartbreak, exhibiting the leadership and maturity of an NBA great, his tears last night resonated.
So, here’s to a few more years of Derrick Rose. Hopefully we can enjoy watching one of the best players in the game return to the height of his powers. Because somewhere beneath that jersey is still a 21-year old kid with fierce determination and fantastic ball-handling skills. The man you see now? He’s carved out his scars – and that determination? Those ball-handling skills? For all the thorns that have gashed his exterior, they clearly haven’t done a thing to touch his will to play the game of basketball at the highest level.