Derrick Rose and Greg Oden have a lot in common. Both played for college basketball teams that lost in the national championship game.
Both left college after one year to enter the NBA draft. And both were selected with the No. 1 pick: Greg Oden by Portland in 2007 and Rose, praise the pingpong balls, by the Bulls in 2008.
It might have worked out differently, but the NBA's 2006 collective bargaining agreement declared that high school seniors could no longer enter the draft. So Oden went to Ohio State and Rose to Memphis, and they both experienced college hoops heartache while deferring their NBA dreams for a year.
After the draft, their paths diverged. Oden's rookie season was negated by bad knees. He eventually underwent five surgical procedures before the Blazers waived him earlier this month. Even if a team looking for a discounted big man claims him, Oden will be known best as a bust.
Meanwhile, Rose's first three seasons inspired Bulls fans to dust off deflated Spauldings and forgotten Starter jackets, thinking the rafters in the United Center might be next in line for cleaning.
The Bulls look good right now. Coach Tom Thibodeau still shouts more than Tears for Fears, no matter what the score is. But Rose has missed more games than he did in those first three seasons combined. His latest ailment is a groin strain—not nearly as ominous as a degenerative knee condition, but still serious.
"I wanted to play through it and I think I made it worse," Rose recently told the Tribune. Most NBA athletes play through pain during their careers. Not many create internal pressure the way Rose does, however. His glum expression on the bench screams that he'd rather be on the court.
Maybe the whirlwind transition from senior standout to freshman star to No. 1 pick is a different kind of madness, one that could cut careers short.
Derrick Rose and Greg Oden both started on that path.
For Rose, time to heal and the support of his team will make all the difference.
Christine Pawlak is a RedEye special contributor.