Derrick Rose’s career may be one of the most tragic stories in sports history. At his best, he was at the very top of the game. He was the star in his hometown, and was good enough to dethrone King James in the MVP race while making his Bulls squad good enough to compete for championships. Then, when he seemed destined to be one of the greatest point-guards in history, it all collapsed. It started with one torn ACL, which then became knee injury after knee injury until it seemed like a miracle he could walk. In a matter of years, he went from the star of Chicago to being cut in midseason by a Cavaliers team that thought no point-guard was better than using him. When it all felt hopeless, the Minnesota Timberwolves, lacking depth at the guard position and desperate to make a play-off push, decided to give him a chance. While he was on and off after not playing consistently last season, he has turned that opportunity into something nobody expected; he has managed to once again make himself a legitimate NBA star.
For a long time, it looked like Derrick Rose could not adapt. He was a slasher whose injuries had drained him of his quickness, which meant that burst of speed he used to get to the rim was no longer there. It felt like watching a shell of his former self, and while the flashes were still there, few believed he would ever reach his former level of greatness ever again. Thinking along those lines, he was inevitably traded to the Knicks, who believed that maybe they could use him in their last ditch efforts at making a good team. It failed, and he had an average year in which he struggled with injuries and never really was able to consistently do the things he once did with ease. After that, he left for Cleveland, who desperately needed help at the point-guard position, having just traded their star, Kyrie Irving, for a less than suitable replacement in Isaiah Thomas, who would miss the first few weeks with injuries. Again, though, he struggled, and when it came time for the Cavs to rebuild their roster at the deadline, they no longer had a place for him. He was released and, for the first time in his career, unemployed. After a bad year, though, the Minnesota Timberwolves felt they could use him in their final push for a spot in the play-offs. While he wasn’t exactly stellar, he did manage to keep them afloat in the race enough that they let him keep his job. it was his chance to prove that he could still keep up with NBA competition, and he fully planned to take advantage of it.
Rose has turned his second chance at basketball into something nobody saw coming, as he went from struggling to find a place into the league into once again being a legitimate star. It didn’t happen from luck, or a fully healed body. Rather, he seems to have accepted that he isn’t quick enough to be the slasher he once was. Never again will he be able to simply burst past hopeless defenders for lay-ups 20 times a game. He won’t have defenses collapse on him to create for teammates the way the used to, because it only takes one man to keep up. So instead, he found different ways to score. And he found them at the 3-point line.
Rose, like the rest of the NBA, has decided that 3’s win ball games. He has begun making more 3’s than ever, and his stats have ballooned because of it. Over his career, Rose has hit 30.6% of his 3-pointers. That made him easy to guard, as you didn’t have to meet him at the perimeter to defend his jump-shot. This year, though, his percentage has skyrocketed to 47.8%. That means that instead of being dismissible from deep, now he has to be a priority. He can stretch the floor in ways he never could before. He doesn’t need to blast by his defenders the way they did, because, with them meeting him further outside, he only needs one step to get past them. Then, if they stay back to prevent his penetration, he can simply unload for 3. It adds a dimension to his offensive game that he wasn’t capable of before, and, if he can keep it up, he may find himself once again as one of the top point-guards in the game.
Nothing is a given. This may just be a long hot streak, or perhaps another knee injury will come and once again demolish everything he’s built. But maybe none of that will. Maybe this is Rose making good on the chance Minnesota has given him by fully reinventing himself as a player. Maybe he has managed to unlock a skill nobody thought he had, and can use it to bolster himself back to the top. There is always reason to doubt, but, for the first time in a long time, there is definitely reason to be optimistic.