Editor’s note: One minute after this story was published, the New York Knicks announced, “Derrick Rose will undergo a minor procedure on his right ankle today. A timeline for his return has not been set.”
Derrick Rose bloomed in the Garden during the New York Knicks‘ playoff push last season. He has a chance to replicate that.
The Knicks are expected to welcome Rose back from an ankle injury either Friday against the Miami Heat or Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers. There’s a sense of urgency for the struggling Knicks, losers of 13 of their last 16 games, to come out from the All-Star break with their guns blazing like a desperate commando.
They did that over the last two weeks heading into the break. They built large leads against the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Brooklyn Nets. But each time, they ran out of ammunition to fall three games back from the final spot of the play-in tournament, currently occupied by their last season’s playoffs tormentor, Atlanta Hawks.
Thibodeau hopes that Rose will come in to calm them as the pressure mounts.
“It’s the veteran leadership,” Thibodeau told reporters after Thursday’s practice when asked what Rose brings to the table. “I think when you have leads like that, it’s controlling and managing the game. That’s a big part.”
“Your point guard has a big responsibility. Obviously, it’s disappointing we didn’t close those games out, but we did a lot of good things to build those leads. And then we got to finish the game.”
The Knicks posted a 24-11 record when Rose played last season. His impact stalled this season as the Knicks went 11-15 with him before he went down with the ankle injury and missed the last 30 games.
Despite Kemba Walker being shut down for the remainder of the season, Rose will likely stay in the second unit. Thibodeau values Rose’s chemistry with sophomores Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin.
“I think pushing the ball. He gets the ball up the floor quickly, and that also takes advantage of the way Obi can run,” Thibodeau said.
Thibodeau is pinning his hopes to salvage whatever’s left of a disappointing sequel to their playoff run last year on his longest-tenured and most trusted point guard. While it’s hard to fault Thibodeau, who values winning over everything and with his job reportedly at stake, for doing that, it’s also fair to wonder if the front office can impose their will and shut down Rose for his best interest and the Knicks’ future.
Asking an injury-prone, 33-year old point guard to push the pace on a surgically-repaired ankle could be a suicide. Rushing him back sounds like a dangerous play, given his extensive injury history.
There’s no harm in trying to get back until someone gets hurt again. Like RJ Barrett did in the final seconds of a lost cause in Denver.
At this point, they have better odds of landing next draft’s top overall pick (3 percent, per Tankathon) than the playoffs (1 percent chance, per Five Thirty Eight).
They could use the final 23 games — the fourth toughest remaining schedule in the league — to evaluate and boost the stocks of their young players and insert Miles McBride and Cam Reddish into their rotation.
There’s still a slim chance Rose can bloom again and buoy the Knicks into the play-in. It will be a miracle of epic proportions to sneak into the playoffs. They say every rose has a thorn. And this could be Rose’s thorn that could inflict wound to the Knicks’ future.
Can the thrill of the play-in chase outweigh a wasted opportunity to evaluate what they have?
There’s no shame in letting go of the rope, especially when there’s more harm clinging into false hope.
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