While the rest of the league was knee-deep in preparations for this year’s NBA Draft, the New York Knicks were busy putting some recent rumors to rest by pulling the trigger on an interesting five-player trade with the Chicago Bulls to acquire former All-Star and league MVP Derrick Rose.
In a deal that also netted the Knicks bench-bound guard Justin Holiday and a second-round draft pick in 2017, New York said goodbye to veteran point guard Jose Calderon, disappointing youngster Jerian Grant, and center Robin Lopez — the player that they’ll undoubtedly miss the most.
Currently immersed in the misery of a three-year playoff drought and struggling to progress in the newly-improved Eastern Conference, New York’s acquisition of head coach Jeff Hornacek has recently given new hope to the team’s long-suffering fan-base. But with a history of time-consuming injuries, a likely desire to act as the team’s on-court leader, an offensive game that requires a ton of shots, and some ugly legal baggage, Rose’s arrival has disaster written all over it.
Heading into the final year of his current contract, Rose will be attempting to resurrect a once-brilliant career that’s been destroyed by several significant knee injuries. As a result, the Knicks will be banking on a point guard that’s failed to play anything close to a full season in each of the last four years, and after sending Calderon to the Windy City and waiving Tony Wroten, they still need to somehow acquire a reliable backup point guard in a very thin market.
As expected, Hornacek was quick to declare his unwavering support of the deal in a statement released by the team shorty after the trade was announced on Wednesday.
”This is an exciting day for New York and our fans,” read Hornacek’s statement. ”Derrick is one of the top point guards in the NBA who is playoff battle-tested. He adds a whole new dynamic to our roster and immediately elevates our backcourt.”
If healthy, Rose and the 16.4 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.4 rebounds he averaged last season will be a tremendous upgrade over any of New York’s previous point guards. But it’s not as if Rose has joined a rudderless ship, and if the former MVP is going to succeed in the Big Apple, he’ll have to somehow co-exist with resident shot monster Carmelo Anthony.
Until last season, Anthony hadn’t ever been anything but a one-man show in New York. But the arrival, and subsequent success, of Kristaps Porzingis forced ‘Melo to share some of the team’s offensive responsibilities. He still averaged a healthy 21.8 points per game, but that number was the third lowest of Anthony’s 13-year career, and Rose’s arrival will force that number to drop even further from his career-high of 28.9 ppg at a time when Anthony’s shooting percentages are already at a four-year low.
During Thursday’s session with the media, team president Phil Jackson explained some of the reasons for acquiring Rose.
”I always talk about lead guard activity,” said Jackson. ”One of the guys who’s decisive, aggressive. A very high, competitive level to his game. We felt our group needed to have some kind of aggressive play, a full-court aggressive attack. This is one of the ways we could get it done.”
Ideally, Rose will team with Anthony and Porzingis to create a ”Big Three” capable of keeping pace with any of the NBA’s top trios. Unfortunately, Rose has a history of taking the offensive reins whether it’s good for his team or not, adding another challenging dimension to Hornacek’s job as New York’s offensive coordinator. Basically, if the Knicks’ new bench boss can’t convince Rose to significantly alter his on-court approach, the team’s offense will suffer.
On Thursday, Hornacek seem determined to paint Rose’s addition to New York’s offense in a positive light while speaking to the media at the team’s practice facility.
”We want to push it more and get into the offense quicker,” said Hornacek. ”He might not be the Derrick Rose of four or five years ago with his speed, but he’s still pretty damn quick.”
While acquiring a player of Rose’s caliber goes a long way with the Knicks’ fan-base, his arrival could also easily stall Porzingis’ on-court growth. The impressive import is already sharing the ball with Anthony — a task made easier by Porzingis’ unselfishness, and adding a shoot-first point guard like Rose to the mix will take the ball out of the youngster’s hands even more during an extremely critical time in his development.
Last season, Lopez played a key role in Porzingis’ early success by being so defensive-minded, allowing him to focus on his offensive game as a rookie. Porzingis was by no means a defensive liability, but having Lopez around to guard the opposition’s primary low-post threat definitely helped, and he’ll be missed more than most expect if the Knicks can’t acquire the services of a capable replacement, or even an upgrade such as Chicago’s Joakim Noah.
Along with a history of injuries and a variety of on-court issues, disturbing allegations of his involvement in a gang rape have also followed Rose to the Knicks. Although he’s denied those allegations, Rose will soon learn just how relentless the city’s sports media can be with the trial scheduled for early October.
A former number-one draft pick, rookie of the year, league MVP, and still just 27-years-old, Rose will now join a team that’s searching for a new identity just as much as he is. But the lofty expectations created from acquiring such a big name will soon turn into a wave of skepticism, and when that happens, the Knicks and their faithful fan-base will realize that Rose is only going to add to the team’s long list of problems.
[Photo By-Mike Erhmann/Getty Images]