Cheering for an opponent in a difficult loss is about as unnatural an act as there is, but Utah Jazz fans should give it up for Derrick Rose.
On the surface, the Utah Jazz’s Wednesday night loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves was a bitter pill to swallow for the Utah faithful. What had seemed a likely win with the floundering T-Wolves missing both Jimmy Butler and Jeff Teague turned into a shootout loss unbecoming of a defense-first team like the Jazz.
That’s some bad hat, Harry.
But for fans of the NBA at large and the sport of basketball in general, there was a bit of magic in Minneapolis on Wednesday. Specifically, a return to form for one of the game’s truly unique talents in former NBA MVP Derrick Rose.
Rose dropped a 50 spot on the Jazz in the game, scoring at all three levels and blocking a potential game-winning triple off the hands of Dante Exum for good measure. It was a new career high for Rose, whose basketball journey has been more of a slog since a glut of knee injuries forced him out of all but 10 games over a two-year stretch from 2012 to 2014 and robbed him of his elite athleticism.
After the game, Rose was visibly shaken by the moment; overcome by the emotion of doing something that few thought was still within the realm of his capabilities.
It was kind of beautiful.
Sure, the Jazz lost the game, but if you can’t appreciate what Rose pulled off, you may not have a pulse. He literally had his best game ever several years after his best had become a distant memory, overshadowed by nearly a decade of doldrums.
Too often in sports (and in life, really) we’re pessimistic about the great things people have done. “What have you done for me lately” is a credo that permeates every sector of society. So what if you were gifted in the past? If those gifts have left you or your path has diverged from them, it’s almost like you never had them to begin with.
That’s the kind of thinking that pervades much of the discussion as relates to the best of the best on the hardwood. And, really, it’s just flat wrong.
Rose may not be the superstar of yore, but he’s no scrub, either. And he was as good as ever in this game.
After signing with his hometown squad — and Rose’s former team — the Chicago Bulls in July, Jabari Parker made headlines with his matter-of-fact response to a question about Rose’s rise, fall and the lows he experienced when the injuries struck.
Said Parker, via the Chicago Tribune —
"“Derrick had no lows. He didn’t. Because he still maintained. Derrick is a legend, no matter what. I don’t like how you explained that,” Parker said in a response to a question about Rose’s fall from grace. “No rise and falls. Injuries are a part of life. Everybody has an injury, either athletics or normal life. Derrick is one of the best players to ever play the game and one of the best icons of Chicago. He accomplished his duty already.”"
Those comments stuck with me at the time. As a connoisseur of all things Jazzy, I felt they could be applied with equal veracity to former Jazzman Deron Williams, who starred in Utah for six years, before beginning a slow and painful descent into near obscurity.
Some suspect team roster, coaching and management situations, a bit of attitude and his bad ankles may have ended Williams’ glory days prematurely, but they still happened. He’s still a Jazz legend and, for a time, was one of the 10 or so best ballers on the planet.
Just as Rose was. Nothing can take that away from either man.
And while D-Will’s career appears to have come to a quiet end, I’m happy to see that Rose was at least able to give us another glimpse of the greatness that made him a household name. Even if it ends up being a one-off.
Make no mistake about it — Rose is a complicated character. For all his skill, natural talent and will to succeed on the court, he still has his demons. Over the years, he’s been party to more than his share of head-scratching moments and bad behavior.
Later this month, he’ll be in a court of a different kind when a woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her five years ago will have her appeal heard. The original 2016 civil case against Rose was dismissed due to lack of evidence.
On those charges, there’s no defending the point guard — that situation is bigger than basketball and is in the hands of his lawyers and the legal system. If he’s guilty, he should pay the price.
But from a pure basketball standpoint, Rose was great on every level against the Jazz. It was inspiring, in much the same way that Rose inspired with the Bulls in 2011 when he was arguably the best player in the Association not named LeBron.
Losing to the Wolves definitely hurt, but I would hope that fans in the 801 can still acknowledge the moment.
It was one for the annals.