The NBA Playoffs got off to an unfortunate start this weekend with major injuries to key players, including a torn ACL for last year’s MVP. Bulls superstar point guard Derrick Rose suffered a season-ending injury with 1:10 left in the fourth quarter of Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
I hate to be cold-blooded, but if the Bulls were a smart organization they would trade Rose immediately this off-season.
Let’s dispatch with a few obvious points before we get into the meat of this very unpopular opinion. First of all, even though the Bulls had the game in hand and Rose probably should have been on the bench, this injury was going to happen sooner or later. The play on which he received the injury wasn’t even close to as high-impact as Rose typically finds himself entangle in. There’s obviously no way to prove that such an injury was inevitable, but I feel like most basketball fans would agree.
Secondly, without Rose the Bulls stand no chance of winning a title, virtually no chance of defeating the Miami Heat in the likely conference finals match-up, and may have difficulty with either Boston or Atlanta in the second round. Though the supporting cast acquitted itself admirably in the mutant regular season, there’s just no way Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, and Rip Hamilton are going to get you past this year’s likely MVP, LeBron James, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh.
Which brings me to Rose. After a tortuous season of leg injuries ranging from turf toe to ankle problems to some unspecified groin injury, at age 23, Rose has suffered his first major injury. An ACL tear is obviously not career-ending in any way, but Rose’s game is constructed almost entirely around his freak-show speed, his ability to break down defenders off the dribble, penetrate, and reach the basket in a blinding, blizzardesque array of contortions that somehow ends with the ball in the basket. If Rose slows down even a little, it will force him to change his game. Like Clippers point guard Chris Paul after his injury, Rose may have to transition to more of a pure point guard role. That’s the middle-scenario. The worst-case scenario? He never learns to be effective without his enormous physical gifts.
The best-case scenario is more likely, though, which would be that he returns next season and is more or less the same player. Even in this case, though, he’s a young, high-impact player, taking hits, bumps, and falls every single game he plays. His body takes enormous amounts of abuse in a sport that already tends to punish its most aggressive talents. How long will his shelf life be? No one knows, but his career could very easily turn into a series of injuries, major and minor, from which fans await his return in perpetuity.
What I’m saying is any way you cut it, there’s uncertainty surrounding Rose. What there is no uncertainty about is his trade value. You don’t think Miami, should they come up short this year, would entertain a Wade for Rose scenario? What about Orlando and the ever-grumpy Dwight Howard? Or hell, what about going after the likely second pick in the draft, Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? The Bulls could make a run at almost any major star with the league’s former MVP in their back pocket then go after Deron Williams or Steve Nash in free agency. Let someone else roll the dice on an injury-ridden 23-year-old.
Keep in mind, I don’t want the Bulls to trade Rose. If you’re a basketball fan, you want the team in the city you live in to feature one of the league’s best talents (especially if your team is this year’s Cavs). I like that Rose is on TV all the time. He’s a local hero. The impulse is to wallow in sentimentality and offer pointless platitudes about "coming back stronger than ever." I get all that. But if professional sports is a business at its core, the Bulls may only have this one summer to pull off a gutsy move that will keep its franchise elite.