Three potential contenders suffered grievous setbacks this past Friday as Marc Gasol (C-Memphis Grizzlies), Andre Iguodala (G/F Golden State Warriors), and Derrick Rose (PG- Chicago Bulls) all went down with various injuries mid-game. What effect will these injuries have on their teams? Will they be able to persevere these early season calamities on the way to a storybook ending? Or will they collapse into nothingness before our eyes? It depends! These players all mean something very different to their squads, though unfortunately for the teams in question, the common denominator in all three cases is one of irreplaceability. It’s a classic Wizard of Oz triple-header the loss of heart, brain, and courage, respectively.
The Cowardly Lion (within us all) This analogy is incomplete. Derrick Rose’s daring drives and late game heroics personified courage, yes, but it wasn’t just courage that Derrick Rose brought to the Bulls. When Derrick Rose went down and the Windy City lost its courage, its hope, its faith in the universe, and also any reason to believe in the goodness of the world. The words “it could have been worse” are a scant consolation prize. After last year, amidst all the waiting and the rumors and the chatter about Rose being cleared to play but mentally unwilling, after an undermanned team played its heart out to get to the playoffs knowing that their MVP would soon return to lead them into the promised land…well, I’m getting depressed just thinking about being a Bulls fan. The rust of Derrick Rose was evident and concerning, though it made perfect sense.
Still, the explosive guard was shooting more and scoring less and the Bulls were playing well under their potential. It was early in the season though, and there was time to fix these issues. But Rose is not a cautious dude, and the way he moves his body in the lane and in transition is nearly always an accident waiting to happen. And unfortunately for the world (sans Miami and Indiana), the accident happened. With the relative weakness of the Eastern Conference and a battle-hardened core that has a clear identity (kill you with defense), the Bulls could easily make the playoffs and may even threaten for homecourt advantage. But when Derrick Rose tore his meniscus in the third quarter of a November game against Portland (the Trailblazers seem like they exist just to torture other teams right now) it felt like a dream falling backwards off a cliff. The sight of Rose limping off the court hurt. It seems an eternity since the superstar point guard “arrived” and earned himself a well-deserved MVP award. But a lot has happened since Rose collected that particular bit of hardware (nevermind that the only trophy the players care about is the Larry O’Brien trophy!).
Fans have short memories. Just a few seasons ago Deron Williams was possibly the best point guard in the NBA. To utter that aloud now would be silly heresy. There was a time when Derrick Rose looked like the future, a new kind of point-guard, perhaps even a dark-horse challenge to LeBron’s supremacy. It would be a sad understatement to say that Rose’s future as a Top 5 player is once again in question. The Bulls without their Courage: Make the playoffs. Lose in the second round. Same ol’ script, numb sadness.
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