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Stop Viewing Derrick Rose Through MVP Lens

In an NBA that always wants to project forward, Derrick Rose is constantly judged by his past. On a Chicago Bulls team that once billed him as its franchise player, he’s ceded that title to Jimmy Butler. And in a city that was once proud to call him one of their own, Rose’s reputation has grown to be a polarizing one with strong takes on both sides of the fire.

After winning the 2010-11 MVP Award in just his third NBA season, hot-take critics will tell you that Rose peaked too early; that he was too talented for his own good,  climbed too high too soon and hasn’t been the same player since. After serving as the inspiration behind the Derrick Rose Rule,[1] Rose set the expectation bar at a level that nobody—including the then-reigning MVP—could clear.

And since that time, a span of four years, Rose has played in exactly 100 regular season games. Despite very obviously being a dramatically different player than he previously was, Rose is consistently and continually held to an unrealistic standard. For those who say that this goes with the treatment when someone is a superstar, Rose is a superstar in name only. Shooting a terrible 40.5 percent from the field last season, including a miserable 28 percent from behind the three-point line, Rose needed 16.4 shots per game in order to average 17.7 points. For context, Kobe Bryant required 20.4 shots per game last season in order to average 22.3 points.

Ranking 25th  (0.89) in ESPN’s real-plus minus among point guards in 2014-15, with names like Jeremy Lin and Brandon Jennings checking in ahead of the former MVP, Rose had plenty of thorns in his most complete season since being crowned Most Valuable Player.  And if a 51-game sample with multiple flaws is the best a player has put forward in almost five years, it’s time to reevaluate how we perceive him.

After sustaining a left orbital fracture at the onset of organized team activity—an injury that’s only a big deal because it was Rose instead of anyone else— he was once again subjected to criticism, scorn and a multitude of opinions from the mass media.

Rick Telander, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, painted a telling picture:

The stage was set for basketball and Rose. When Rose won the MVP Award in 2011 — the youngest player ever to receive the honor — we assumed the best was yet to come. How could we not? Rose was only 22; Jordan won his last championship for the Bulls at 35!

But it was the end. Three knee surgeries, the orbital bone surgery — suddenly Rose is a wounded vet in a league full of young, swift point guards.

The same fans that were anxious to hand Rose the keys to the kingdom have now been quick to try and strike the sword from his hand. The same critics who couldn’t get enough of Rose now beg to see less of him. Still judged and evaluated by the standard he previously set at an earlier point in his career, the collective hope that Rose can and will return to a player that no longer exists says more about those watching than Rose ever could with his play.

You’ve put on 15 lbs. since you last saw your good friend? Blame it on having kids. You’ve failed to advance in your job despite being there for more than a decade? Blame the boss. In a toxic culture of deference, the expectation for Rose to assume responsibility for his unfortunate injury history and suddenly, magically vault back into the MVP echelon is a warped, fictional reality where supermodels riding unicorns can be found. We are simply no longer watching the same Rose, and the sooner that becomes a part of the perception process, the more one can enjoy watching the point guard play.

Try looking Derrick Rose through this new, different lens. It very well may change your view.



[1] The Rose Rule allows a designated player to make 30 percent of his team’s salary cap instead of the traditional 25 percent if one of the following conditions are met: A) Twice voted an All-Star starter, B) Twice voted onto an All-NBA team or C) Voted NBA MVP

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