Rick Telander is a legendary sportswriter, and for good reason. The Chicago Sun-Times scribe is the author of “Heaven Is a Playground” which if you haven’t read 12 times by now, kindly change that aspect of your life by midnight tonight. His feature and column work for Sports Illustrated was fantastic, he was a mainstay on the Greatest Show Ever (“The Sports Writers on TV“), and while he’ll never remember this, he gave me an incredible batch of advice and guidance in just a few minutes worth of talking after I bugged him during halftime of Game 6 of the 1998 Eastern Conference finals.
Today, however, he published a very un-Rick Telander-like column.
All the Telander hallmarks – his single-sentence paragraphs – are there, as is his touch with words. The premise of the column – Derrick Rose is a weenie who won’t play through pain – is off. Way off.
Off for a hack trying to score some hot take points and one day get on basic cable TV. And certainly off for someone of Telander’s talents. From the Sun-Times:
There is a theme here, and it’s not a happy one. It is this: Derrick Rose plays too hard for his body, or is too fragile for hoops, and we can never count on him to lead the Bulls for an extended period again. Fate has decided to tease us, tease him, tease all.
Maybe this is nothing, much ado about what’s called a ‘‘basketball injury.’’ Or two.
“I’m feeling good,” Rose said at the shootaround. But then he added, rather ominously, ‘‘If I’m not… 100 percent or if I can’t play the way that I normally play, there’s no point in me being out there right now.”
Is that the second part to this equation? Is there anyone in the league who’s feeling 100 percent after the first practice of the season? Nobody expects a fellow to play with a torn ACL (which Rose has had) or a torn meniscus (which Rose has had). But can you gut out a few minutes with two sore ankles against a weak team with a 20-year old point guard wearing a Davy Crockett cap on his head, from Louisiana-Lafayette?
Many players would.
Those players? Rick names one:
Michael Jordan came back to the NBA in 1994 after his minor-league baseball adventure, and he played in every game for the Bulls for the next four years, winning three NBA titles.
Maybe Jordan is a freak. Of course, he is.
But he played though pain.
Yes, Michael Jordan did play through pain. As does Rose and just about every other NBA player out there. Telander, like myself, has seen just about every single minute of Jordan’s storied NBA career, and I can’t recall many instances of Jordan jumping up and landing on someone’s ankle – as Derrick Rose did on Friday against Cleveland. That’s just great luck, that the highest-flying player of his era could glide around the court from 1984 until 2002 (save for those two retirements) and not tear an ACL, or even an MCL, or even a meniscus. Just one broken foot for Michael, plucked down in Jordan’s second season when the Bulls weren’t going anywhere.
As a Chicagoan, I’m qualified to say: “Lucky us.”
Derrick Rose has two sprained ankles, and the second one was caused when he played through the first sprain on Friday. As anyone who has sprained ankles playing basketball can attest, overcompensation is an enemy that is hard to overcome, and Rose awkwardly sprained his right ankle attempting to work around the left ankle sprain he suffered earlier.
A next-night trip to Minnesota, to face a team that might churn out one of the worst records in the NBA this season, followed. Rose sat. Lined up against Orlando on Tuesday night, facing a Magic squad that is probably one Philadelphia tank job away from earning the East’s worst record this year, he sat. Tuesday’s contest was the first of a four-game-in-five-nights run, Rose’s squad has 78 contests left following the eventual Chicago win, and these Bulls have championship aspirations that could drag their season into mid-June.
And again, Derrick Rose has two sprained ankles. You shouldn’t really play basketball on one sprained ankles, nonetheless two, no matter what the midday team medical press releases relay, or how normal Rose looks in warmups.
It’s frustrating that the timing of Rose’s ACL tear put him out for a potential championship run in the spring of 2012, and the entire 2012-13 season. It’s devastating that a meniscus tear (which could have far more lasting implications than the ACL injury) knocked him out for just about all of 2013-14. It stunk terribly to watch Rose’s ankles roll on Friday night. It’s mind-boggling to note that Rose’s potential rematch duel with LeBron James during this season’s postseason could take place four whole years after James helped lock Rose down in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals.
This is how this game works, sometimes, and sportswriters pressed for The Big Statement tend to either forget that, or willingly overlook that in order to serve the content master. The latter is far worse, because it involves a betrayal of your own intelligence, all for the sake of one column.
Yesterday was Nov. 4. It was a home game against a lacking team pitched at the beginning of a tough stretch in a season that could last seven and a half more months. The Bulls didn’t need Derrick Rose on Tuesday, and I’d write as much had the team lost by 20. If Telander wants to dive into something that should stress him about these Bulls, he should wonder why 34-year old Pau Gasol played 34:25 out of a possible 36 minutes to start Tuesday night’s game despite clearly being more than winded (missing several chippies, free throws, short on jumpers, all the obvious stuff).
Gasol’s injury past is just as worrying as Rose’s, if not more so. He’s played endless summers of international ball for Spain, and was a deep postseason mainstay from 2008 through 2010. He’s worked through all the typical basketball injuries that come from overuse (a stress fracture in his foot, back and knee soreness, a torn plantar fascia), and he has to work double-duty on both ends in ways that Derrick Rose does not, while hulking around with a 7-foot frame.
And yet, not until the fourth quarter, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t bother to rest the 34-year old Gasol for a longer spell or three against a crummy Orlando team BECAUSE EVERY POSSESSION COUNTS. On the first of four games in five nights, no less.
Of course, “Why Didn’t Chicago Play Nazr Mohammed for Short Stints in the Second and Third Quarter?” won’t make the cover of the back page of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Derrick Rose is supposed to sit out a game against the Orlando Magic on Nov. 4 with two sprained ankles because he’s supposed to sit out a game against the Orlando Magic on Nov. 4 with two sprained ankles. Same as with Kirk Hinrich, or Jimmy Butler, or anyone else who would dare stand up to Chicago’s notoriously dodgy defensive staff. Sprained ankles – and you can ask the likely Telander-approved gut-maestro Manu Ginobili about this – sometimes can ruin an entire season for you.
This is a season, a long slog that works its way well past a Nov. 4 newspaper deadline to be met. Rick Telander – again, a teenage hero of mine – knows this above all.
Sometimes you should just take a night off.
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