The necessary frustrations of Derrick Rose’s minutes limit

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Derrick Rose is playing his best basketball since his MVP season (since before his torn ACL that was one of the stories of the decade). He’s in the running for Sixth Man of the Year, averaging 16.8 points and 5.7 assists a game, with a 55.6 true shooting percentage (efficient for him) and an All-Star level PER of 22.3.

He’s doing all that in less than 24 minutes a night. Only four times has he played more than 27 minutes a game, and never more than 29.

Rose would love to play more, Pistons coach Dwane Casey would love to play him more, but everyone is sticking to a minutes limit set preseason to keep Rose healthy and fresh. Rod Beard has a great story about it in The Detroit News.

“We had a meeting this summer with the medical people and his agent and everybody to come up with a plan to help Derrick. Believe me — nobody loved Derrick Rose more and I wish he could play 80 minutes out of 40,” Casey said Tuesday. “But he can’t, so we have to protect him from himself. It’s up to the medical people; it’s their decision and it’s their plan.”…

“I feel good, but it’s not up to me with the minutes; it’s up to the coaching staff and the (training) staff to come up with it,” Rose said. “Of course, I want to be out there, but I guess they see something I don’t, and they’re worried about it — just being cautious with me.”

There’s good reason to be cautious, Rose has a lengthy injury history and he’s a prime candidate for “load management” to keep him on the court at age 31. He can’t carry the load of a 23-year-old anymore. This is not something forced upon Rose without his knowledge — his agent was in on these discussions — but there is no professional athlete who is not convinced he can handle more minutes and be just fine. It’s part of the mentality that got them to the pinnacle of a sport, and it’s why sometimes teams need to protect players from themselves.

The challenge for Casey is the temptation to ride Rose’s offense — the Pistons score 6.7 points more per 100 possessions with Rose on the floor — to some more wins on a banged-up team (Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson, and others have missed significant time this season). Despite the injuries, the Pistons are just 2.5 games out of the playoffs in the soft bottom of the Eastern Conference. They could make a postseason push, and Rose would be at the heart of it.

But Casey and the Pistons are doing the right thing — put the health of the player first even if he doesn’t like it.

That said, watch Rose play while you can this season. He is back to being something special — and that is fun for everyone.