The fans depressingly exit Madison Square Garden, their home team Knickerbockers suffering an 110-96 loss to the lowly New Orleans Pelicans. A media frenzy always surrounds the Knicks, win or lose, good or bad, and tonight’s loss was no different. The questions, however, were not about the play of a seven-foot unicorn that can splash threes or a perennial 25-point per game scorer with the last name Anthony. The only concern, “Where is Derrick Rose?”
The reason the Knicks gave for Derrick’s absence was officially “not with the team.” The team currently sits at 17-21 on the year, 2 games out the playoffs, and a clearly disappointing start to reasonably high expectations this season. The combo of Rose, Anthony, and Porzingis was supposed to take the team to places unseen by the younger generation of Knick fans.
Through 33 games this year, Derrick is averaging 17.3 points and 4.5 assists, near a career low in assists and nowhere near the scoring output the former MVP has shown in previous campaigns.
According to the Pelicans announcers, the teams thought he would be there for the game. Two hours before tip-off, it was time for Rose to run his warm-ups, when assistant coaches had to ask if anyone had seen Derrick today. Rose’s disappearing act was a giant surprise to both fans attending the game and the Knicks’ coaching staff.
After the game head coach Jeff Hornacek commented on the situation, “Right now, we don’t have information to give you anything,” per Mike Vorkunov of USA Today. He later told ESPN, “Everything will become clear later on, we’re just not going to comment on it.”
The official story from Rose is the absence was family related and had “nothing to do with basketball.” Regardless of the reason, the Knicks fined Rose with undisclosed amount for the incident. According to Ian Begley of ESPN New York, Derrick Rose said he flew to Chicago to be with his family on Monday and flew back to New York on Tuesday morning for practice.
This incident would be brushed aside if not for the tension between Rose and Hornacek throughout the season. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the friction between the two has been on the rise. “Rose has been increasingly frustrated with how this Knicks season has unfolded, culminating with him privately fuming over his diminished late-game role in Friday night’s victory in Milwaukee.” Further along in the report, Woj notes that Rose has been critical of Hornacek in private, but not to anyone in the organization. The problem was only compounded by the idea that Joakim Noah, Roses former Bulls teammate, was the only one made aware of the situation in real time, furthering a divided team image.
What makes this incident more worrisome than the occasional missed game by a player, is Rose’s decision to refuse to communicate with the team. When Rose talked to reporters he said, “It’s a family issue, that’s the first time I’ve ever felt like that emotionally.” He was not apologetic but simply stated he needed to be with his family and needed his space. This reaction was obviously not the one the Knicks wanted, but players are human beings and Rose simply needed to be with his mother.
The Knicks go into Philadelphia tomorrow night, where Derrick Rose is expected to play. The situation will remain tense until the Knicks start to win again. If the team continues their mediocre play throughout the season, questions will continue to surface over their super-stars willingness to stay. So far, the super team experiment has provided an average win-loss record and Derrick Rose’s willingness to play for the team appears to be dwindling.