What Doesn’t Kill You

The year was 2008 and I am still learning basketball. At that point the Bulls were known as the baby Bulls, with a core of Deng, Hinrich, Nocioni and Ben Gordon – the Bulls where still in rebuilding mode. Occasionally I would watch other games that appear on TNT or ABC. One night the Lakers where playing the Trailblazers. I had tuned into that game because Kobe was playing. At that point Kobe was still in his prime and every game he played felt like he could go off for 82. It was shortly after the All-Star break, on Feb 29th. At this point the Lakers where on a 10 game win streak and being the championship favorites that they were, put on a show. Playing a young and inexperienced team in the Blazers, Kobe was primed to do something great, just like he has many times in his career.

But they lost. Kobe, despite his best effort putting up 33 points, could not reel in the game. It was the leadership and gusto of a young Brandon Roy that lead them to the victory. I remember watching Roy play that game, he commanded so much with the team he had at the time. If he was still the player he could have been, he may be top 5 player in the league right now. Roy was instantly my favorite player from that point until Derrick Rose ended up winning ROY a couple of years later. Roy had a lot of potential to be great. Injury after injury plagued his career until he was unable to play at a competitive level until he was forced to retire.
Brandon Roy

Funny how similar Derrick Rose and Brandon Roy are. Both players are the leaders of their team. Both players possess incredible game changing approach to their teams. Both players have a history of injuries. And for one, those injuries abruptly ended his career while the other is trying to learn from the past.

Rose has been under fire since his recent interview. he states:

“I’m thinking about after I’m done with basketball,’’ Rose said, “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 (2-year-old) son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past.’’ -Derrick Rose

Some Bulls fans were livid. Comments I have heard and seen are things like

” He’s a P***y”
“Kobe played with a dislocated finger why can’t he play?”
“He is getting paid millions of dollars to take a break each game”
“You have to be willing to sacrifice your body in order to be successful”
“He does not want it (the championship)  as bad as he claims”
“He would rather sit out then to help his team win”
“This guy is dumb”

When I read or hear these statements, I can’t help but think of what the comments will be if he can stay healthy and this Bulls team looks prime and ready to go come playoff time. Will you still doubt him? Will you still accuse him of being a baby? Probably not. Because at the end of the day, the fans only react to what they see in front of them. Derrick is looking past that and that is where the criticism comes from

Let me pause the sports talk and let me speak to you guys on a broader level. Strength is not determined by how much you can muscle. Strength is not the ability to grind everything out, nor is it the ability to be brash. Here is the reality folks, being tough isn’t always smart. What is good for me may not be good for you. Real strength is knowing what you can and cannot do, and choosing not to do it. Because a man with restraint and discipline will go a lot farther than the man who is reckless and ignorant. Just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should

There is a very fine line you walk when you have an injury. You can go out there and play your guts out or choose to sit. If he plays and does something heroic, we all praise him for being tough and muscling through it. If he plays poorly, costs the game or gets re-injured. If he he sits too long, people have to question his heart.

Case and point – this exact time last year Derrick rose was injured in the 10th game of the season. If you guys remembered, Rose was playing gradually each game. The 10th game, Rose was in during a blowout game in the fourth quarter, and sustained the second knee related injury in  3 years. It was rough, and to make matters worse everybody was questioning how you could play Rose so many minutes when he had just come off a torn ACL injury.

Rose After he tore his meniscus
Rose after he tore his meniscus

Here we are a year later, questioning why he is pacing himself.

Derrick’s comments should not be taken literally. He is not stating that he is going to sit out games for the sole purpose of being able to attend a meeting when he is 40. He is not saying that he doesn’t want to be sore, which can be seen as a minor nuisance as oppose to a life threatening injury. He is simply stating the follow:

“I am taking care of myself now for when I will have more to lose later. ”

In other words when it comes to his health Derrick Rose does not give a crap about what you say, what you think of him and why he does it. He doesn’t care because he is totally aware that when he is old, you wont care what his says, what you think of him and why he will do the things he will do.

Can we then, as selfish fans, be upset that Derrick chooses to be selfish with his body?

My answer is no. Too many careers have been ruined by the “play through the pain” motif. Dont believe me?

Tracy McGrady
Yao Ming
Brandon Roy
Grant Hill
Greg Oden
T.J. Ford
Shaun Livingston
Gilbert Arenas
Jay Williams
Barron Davis
Jermaine O’Neal
Andrew Bynum
Amar’e Stoudemire
Larry Johnson
Penny Hardaway
Chris Webber

And this is just the list of good players. These guys all did what you want Derrick Rose to do. They stomached the pain and the tried to play through it all. The problem is most of their careers amounted to nothing anyway. Aside from Bynum, none of these guys won a championship and Bynum should even count considering he was injured for 32 games that year and average 6 points and 3 rebounds.

So here is my point. Brandon Roy, and many others tried to help their teams by going out there each game and playing hurt. But in the long run, who did they help? Majority of these players did not finish their careers with their original teams and if they did it was them coming off the bench or not at all. if they didn’t call it quits with the team the bounced around a couple NBA teams until body would sign them.

And you want Derrick to end up the same way?
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Hey guys I get it. Many players play through the pain. Many have had similar injuries and have been relatively successful afterwords. Kobe won a championship with half a knee and a dislocated finger right? Jordan played a miraculous game with a flu. But we are not looking for Rose to be Jordan, or to be Kobe. We want Derrick Rose to be Derrick Rose. And if he has to sit out some games in the begging of the season to get there, i am all for that. because we should know by the now, the Bulls are making the playoffs with or without Derrick Rose. The team is good enough to make the playoffs. But without Derrick Rose, they wont win a championship.

To concluded, I am willing to bet Brandon Roy would tell Derrick Rose that what is doing is a much better approach to how Roy handled it. I would pray that players like Paul George consider doing the same. It has been said that if Derrick really wanted to play basketball, he would play it no matter what. If you really love basketball, wouldn’t you want to play it as long as you can?

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