Wojo: Derrick Rose wants to stay with Pistons, and might get his wish
Detroit — He’s done what he set out to do, recapture his game, reclaim his status as an upper-tier point guard, revisit his youth. Derrick Rose has done more than almost anyone imagined when the Pistons signed him to a modest two-year contract.
He played his way into the All-Star conversation and recently topped 20 points in 14 consecutive games. Rose, 31, has been so effective, the question is: Did he play his way out of town by Thursday’s trade deadline?
Rose makes it clear he doesn’t want to leave. And indications are, the Pistons have no urgency to deal him. Compounding the issue is a strained hip muscle that sidelined him the past two games.
“I love it here, it’s close to home (Chicago),” Rose said. “Of course, I wish we had more wins. I love the staff, I love the front office, I love being in Detroit.”
His spirited determination — as well as his team-high 18.5 scoring average — has made him a fan favorite at Little Caesars Arena in another dismal season. Based on the Pistons’ rebuild, it makes sense to move him. But he’s been so good, on a team-friendly contract, it only makes sense if the Pistons get real value, a first-round pick or a young prospect from a contender that needs an experienced playmaker.
This will twist right up until the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline. In the latest murmurs, third-year guard Luke Kennard might be the one dealt, although he has missed 22 straight games with knee tendinitis. And the team still is seeking suitors for Andre Drummond or any of its veterans — Markieff Morris, Langston Galloway, Tony Snell.
The Pistons are hoping for something big, but aren’t selling from a position of strength. So they might have to settle for something small, or nothing at all. If they can’t move Drummond, that would be a major blow, because they could get stuck with another year on his hefty contract.
It’s not the same with Rose. For many players, a leap to a contender would be welcomed. Not for the well-traveled Rose, who made a pact, with himself and an old friend, that he’d like to keep.
Giving his word
So, did he express his desire to the front office, senior adviser Ed Stefanski and vice chairman Arn Tellem?
“I probably need you to tell them that,” Rose said with a smile. “Of course I want to stay here. I’ve been in this league 12 years, and it’s just all about being happy. I gave Arn my word and told him I’d hear him out, and they gave me a chance. I want to see what happens. I know I’ll get a call or a message, and they’ll tell me whatever direction they’re going.”
Tellem was an agent for 35 years and represented Rose, and is the primary reason Rose signed a two-year, $15 million contract in July. It was a flyer, but a calculated flyer. After years of battling injuries — knee, ankle, elbow — Rose revived himself in Minnesota, although last season ended with elbow surgery.
Now the market may have grown, with the Lakers and 76ers reportedly showing interest, but the Pistons want a significant return. Is that stubborn? Not really. What’s the point in shipping him for a second-round pick, with a year left on his contract? His playing time isn’t an issue, and he certainly has the wisdom to be a mentor. In fact, with Reggie Jackson departing, Rose could be the only experienced point guard on the roster.
Of course, his value may never be this high, even though he’s bothered by the hip strain. It’s not considered serious but that’s probably the best indication he’ll stay, because teams recognize his body will always be vulnerable. It’s the same with Blake Griffin, who’s sidelined for the season and untradeable.
Fan appeal shouldn’t be the primary factor in roster decisions, but it is notable. Rose plays with such energy, fans periodically serenade him with “MVP” chants, an ode to his celebrated past — the youngest-ever NBA MVP with the Bulls in 2011 — and an acknowledgement of his journey back.
“We’d love for him to be a Piston for a long time,” coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s such a big contributor to our team, how hard we play, the style we want to play, getting to the paint. I’ve said this numerous times: He’s what our league should be about.”
Rose played seven seasons with the Bulls and was a runaway flash, speeding up the court, pounding into traffic. But he missed almost two full seasons with a knee injury, and eventually bounced to the Knicks, Cavaliers, Timberwolves and Detroit. He knew he had to adjust to preserve his body and improve his 3-point shooting. He found other ways to attack, and yet at times, still resembles the dynamo who led Memphis to the 2008 national championship game.
“I’m older and much wiser now,” Rose said. “I know how to take care of my body and I think it’s all coming full circle. I’m not playing reckless like I used to, I’m picking and choosing. When I was younger, I was on go all the time.”
He felt so good, he asked last month to reduce his minutes restriction, and has started nine games since. He was in consideration for the All-Star game in his hometown of Chicago, but doesn’t feel spurned.
“Just being on that team doesn’t define who I am,” Rose said. “I’m not gonna be the last Derrick Rose, so I want to be the example of a guy that went through a lot of struggles and persevered.”
'An unbelievable competitor'
John Calipari witnessed the early stages as his coach at Memphis. Now at Kentucky, Calipari pops into town to check on his son, Brad, who plays at Detroit Mercy, and his former star. When Calipari visited two weeks ago for the Pistons-Kings game, he was amazed.
“What I saw was some of the old stuff,” Calipari said. “I grabbed him at halftime and said, ‘You’re exploding to the rim!’ And he said, ‘Coach, I’m right, physically.’ He’s always been a great teammate and an unbelievable competitor. He’s a perfectionist, and when he’s not right, it drives him crazy.”
Driving like crazy is pretty much Rose’s style. Another ankle injury drove him out of the game in 2017, when he took a leave from the Cavaliers to assess his future.
“I never thought it was over, I never gave up,” Rose said. “I knew if I got my body in order, I still had a chance to play the way I want to play. I always believed in myself, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back.”
So far, he has proven his point and his worth. He seized an opportunity and created options, for himself and the Pistons. All in all, a pretty darn good deal, no matter what the next deal might be.