Among Chicago’s greatest sports tragedies in the last decade has been the turbulent career of hometown star Derrick Rose, and the now-Detroit Pistons guard’s latest comments only pump more emotion into the departure from the Bulls.
Rose won the NBA MVP award in 2011 before severe injuries derailed his next three seasons with the Bulls, who struggled to rise to the occasion with their star player sidelined so often. The Bulls eventually traded Rose to the New York Knicks in December 2016, but Rose believes things might have been different in today’s NBA climate — specifically in terms of load management.
“It was just a different time in the sports world, period,” Rose said in a recent interview with NBC Sports Chicago. “Now we have the term ‘load management.’ I don’t think that I would’ve taken it as far as Kawhi (Leonard), as far as like they’re really being cautious about his injury or whatever he has. But if load management would’ve been around, who knows? I probably would’ve still been a Chicago Bull by now. But it wasn’t around.”
Rose became just the third NBA player ever to tally 2,000 points and 600 assists in a single season at the height of his career in Chicago during the 2010-11 season, averaging 25 points and 7.7 assists and carrying the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. He is also still the only Bulls player to win MVP other than Michael Jordan.
Through eight games this season, Rose is averaging 18.4 points and 5.8 assists for the Pistons, but his career has never been the same since his early years with the Bulls.
Would Load Management Have Helped Rose?
While not favored among old-school NBA critics, load management has developed into a much-discussed topic around the league today because of high-profile situations like Leonard with the Los Angeles Clippers. Teams want to have their best players at peak condition for the most important parts of the season and make tactical decisions about playing time to preserve their long-term ambitions.
How such a practice — which went against the philosophy of then-Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau — might have altered Rose’s career can’t really be quantified, but his suggestion that it could have made a difference does make one wonder how things might be different for both Chicago and the league if more caution and fewer expectations had surrounded Rose.
Thibodeau had a controversial tendency to play his best players heavy minutes and never proved the type to put much stock in the term “load management,” something that ties to Rose rather specifically when looking back at his first injury.
With the Bulls leading by 12 points with 82 seconds remaining in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, Thibodeau left Rose in the game and had to watch as his best player went down with a torn left ACL. He missed the entire following season before attempting his comeback, only to tear the meniscus in his other knee less than a month later.
Blaming Thibodeau entirely would be out of place, but there is substance to the argument that his demands accelerated an inevitable injury problem for Rose, who has battled knee, ankle and elbow injuries in his post-Chicago career as well.