Before I say anything at all on this topic, just know that I feel stupid for even writing about it because I consider the whole thing to be a non-issue. That said, I feel like I need to a better job of explaining my position than I did on Twitter earlier today.
So, the reason I’m writing about this at all is this piece by Kevin Ferrigan at Hickory High. This is essentially a straight rebuttal of his points, so you should probably read it before you go any further. But, for those of you too lazy to actually click on the link, the basic gist is that Ferrigan, a fellow Chicago Bulls fan, believes Derrick Rose is putting his ego above his team’s success in refusing to recruit high profile free agents, which he famously did in 2010 and has since reiterated.
A couple of things jumped out at me from the beginning. First of all, Mr. Ferrigan acknowledges the weirdness of talking about Rose’s ego being out of control right off the bat, which I appreciate, but I have to admit that things like asking “Why can’t I be the MVP?” in 2010 and calling himself the best player in the league this summer have very much led us in that direction.
Now, having fulfilled my quota for agreeing with him, let’s start deconstructing his arguments, shall we? The first two non-introductory paragraphs in the piece ask us to envision a hypothetical summer of 2010 in which Derrick Rose called up LeBron James prior to The Decision and tried to convince him that Chicago should be his new home. Admittedly, hindsight is 20-20 — and Mr. Ferrigan does say that it might not have changed anything — but I haven’t seen anything since The Decision that refutes the notion that LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh planned to team up long in advance of July 2010, which tells me that Rose was better off saving his breath.
OK, I’ll admit, that’s a fairly weak argument. After all, shouldn’t Rose at least have given it a shot? I guess. But think about it like this: What if Rose insists on non-recruitment because he sees it as disloyal to his teammates?
Following the end of the 2011 NBA lockout, Rose stated he wouldn’t recruit anyone (again). Here are some of the highlights from the ESPN news story:
“I’m fine with my teammates,” Rose said Thursday. “If they choose to [go after another scorer] that’s up to them. But my teammates that I have right now, I’m fine with them.”
Rose made it clear that he had no issue with the possibility that Keith Bogans may be back. Bogans started all 82 regular-season games last season.
“I’m fine with that,” Rose said. “Keith’s my guy. I’m rolling with Keith.”
Mr. Ferrigan does acknowledge this as a possibility, but says he doesn’t buy it because Rose’s comments sound like “macho posturing.” Here, I would respectfully but forcefully disagree. To me, Rose sounds very nonchalant and unconcerned about the whole thing. “If anyone wants to play with me, I don’t mind playing with — it could be anybody in the NBA. But I don’t recruit and I never will.” To me, that jibes with what he said back in 2011 in the piece I linked above:
“But it’s not up to me, it’s up to [the players] to make that decision, meet with [executive vice president] John [Paxson] and them, [general manager] Gar [Forman] and them, and see what they’re going to do.”
I hear something like this: “Whatever, Gar, do what you gotta do. I’ll be happy either way.” Mr. Ferrigan seems to hear something more like this: “I don’t want to play with other guys. Stay away from me.” I feel bad putting words in his mouth, but that’s my impression of his piece, and I just don’t see it.
One last thing: Mr. Ferrigan takes umbrage with Rose’s assertion that he’s never recruited, as he rather publicly helped recruit Kirk Hinrich last summer. That’s fair, I guess, but let’s remember that Hinrich was a former Bull, a former teammate, and something of a mentor for Rose when he came into the league. So if we’re assuming that Rose refuses to recruit out of loyalty to his teammates — and I am, as outlined above — it seems to me that Hinrich’s status as a former teammate at the very least qualifies him as a special case, if not for exclusion from the discussion entirely.
There’s also the question of whether Rose is talking about purely about recruiting fellow stars. His response came directly in response to this question: “With big names, big stars like LeBron, Melo entering free agency in 2014, will you recruit for them to be a part of your team?” I would assert that his response was in the context of recruiting another star, which Kirk Hinrich certainly is not. You may disagree, and that’s fine, I won’t argue too much given he says “it could be anyone in the NBA.” Either way, something else to think about.
So basically, while there probably is some level of ego on Rose’s part in refusing to recruit, I feel relatively certain it’s mostly about his teammates and not about wanting to win on his terms.* And if that makes me a “meatball,” Mr. Ferrigan, then I disagree. But so be it.
*By the way, let’s just take a moment to think about how we’d be reacting if Michael Jordan said this while he was playing. I’m pretty sure at least 20 columns would have been written in the aftermath about how this proved he was the best ever. But whatever.
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