Bill Walton. Grant Hill. Brandon Roy. Penny Hardaway. Yao Ming. Tracy McGrady. Danny Manning. Sam Bowie. Brad Daugherty. Greg Oden.
You can form a powerhouse team that includes a Hall of Famer (and other potential ones) whose careers were cut short of their prime because their bodies betrayed them. Many showed us seasons of greatness before their knees, or backs, or ankles gave out. Some never got that far (Oden may the best example).
Is Derrick Rose going to join that club?
That is the fear, the worst case scenario after it was announced that for the third season in a row Rose’s season would be cut short by a knee injury. For the second time in three years he will have surgery on his right meniscus.
The fact is it is too early to tell if he will join that club. Rose is just 26, it’s too early to say anything definitive about his career.
Until the surgeon looks down the scope at his knee in the coming days we don’t know if his meniscus can be repaired or if all or part of it must be removed. However, early reports are this tear is not as severe as the previous ones. We don’t know the recovery time. We don’t know how he will bounce back physically (Russell Westbrook and others have bounced back to become their old selves).
It will be much longer before we know if Rose can bounce back mentally and get over the hurdles.
For Rose this has been more of the issue coming off the first two knee surgeries — he didn’t attack the rim with the same fearlessness. The numbers aren’t bad — this season Rose drove 7.3 times per game in the half court offense (according to the Sports VU cameras), he shot 52.2 percent on those drives scoring 6.2 points a game, and the team scores 9.3 points per game on them because he kicks passes out as well. But it wasn’t the same. As Bulls color analyst Stacy King notes, pre-injury Rose scored about 60 percent of his points in the paint, post injury Rose it has been closer to 40 percent.
What we can learn from the guys on that list at the top of this post — and other guys who have bounced back from similar injuries to be productive, Dwyane Wade for example — is that if Rose is going to continue on as a star in this league his game has to evolve. It has to adapt to what his body can do.
To be fair we had seen more of that, more of playmaker Rose in the past month. We know he tried to use the jumper more this season, but his midrange and three-point shooting percentages fell. He’s got to hit those shots.
The best model might be Wade. He’s a player whose fearless, attacking style helped take over the 2006 NBA Finals and get Miami it’s first ring; but that was a contrast from the more rounded game we saw from him winning two more rings next to LeBron James in 2012 and 2013. Rose needs to find more of that balance in his game.
There are other guys on that list who ended up going another route.
Bill Walton was an MVP and an NBA champion before a host of foot, ankle and other problems caused him to play in just 14 games over four seasons. His career appeared done. Then Walton got relatively healthy, adapted his game, and most importantly for him adjusted his mindset to be willing to be a role player. He was a key bench reserve on the 1985-86 Celtics and picked up his second ring.
Grant Hill, the same way, went from a 20 point a game scorer and foundational piece his first six years in the league, to a quality veteran role player in Phoenix who could knock down threes at the end. (In between were some ugly years battling injuries.)
Rose is not at the point he has to think more like Walton and Hill, but he is going to have to adapt.
Whatever happens, I just hope in 10 years we don’t put Rose’s name on that list above.