Derrick Rose isn’t searching for answers, but he doesn’t know why his role has been diminished so drastically. As Rose acknowledged Thursday, “I’m in the unknown.”
After the 34-year-old’s extended injury absence last season was labeled a major reason for the Knicks’ downward spiral, the point guard was expected to feature prominently with the second unit.
Yet 11 games into the campaign, Rose has never been this far toward the fringe of the rotation. He’s averaging just 12.7 minutes and six points per game, squeezed for opportunities as the fourth or fifth guard.
“This is new, foreign for me,” he said.
Despite navigating the unchartered territory, Rose said he’s received no explanation for the demotion. Part of it is self-explanatory with Jalen Brunson averaging 33.5 minutes. Another aspect is Rose not taking advantage of his limited chances while shooting 38%.
The former MVP said he doesn’t want to bother Tom Thibodeau with the issue.
“I’m letting everybody be, man,” Rose said. “I don’t want to have that conversation with him just off the strength that he has a lot on his plate – the team does. So the last guy he wants to hear from is the guy who has been in the league for 15 years going in and complaining and b—tching. Just trying to give everybody the space, remain myself, and help the young guys. I think I’ve been doing a good job helping — talking to people when they’re on the floor. That’s what I can do right now. And try not to f—k up the game whenever I get in.”
Thibodeau, who has coached Rose for three different teams spanning 10 seasons, indicated there was broad communication.
“I talk to Derrick as much as anyone,” Thibodeau said. “You sit down, you talk to your players every day. You’re asking everyone to sacrifice. Some guys, it might be going from starting to coming off the bench. Some guys might be going out of the rotation. You have a finite amount of minutes. You have to have a rotation. A lot of it’s based on performance — all of it is. We’re going to keep searching for guys that can help us win. That’s really where we are. You want more minutes, you’ve got to play well.”
Thibodeau has rightfully earned the reputation of a strong basketball mind with a tireless work ethic, but communication and relationships were issues at his previous stops, especially in Minnesota. As one of Thibodeau’s former coaching colleagues explained, “Studying film doesn’t fix everything.”
Some of it is Thibodeau’s old-school mentality of treating players like they don’t need their hands held to the bench.
But a situation occurred just last season with Kemba Walker, who clearly took issue with being cut from Thibodeau’s rotation without an explanation.
Of course with Rose, there’s more than enough history with Thibodeau to assume water will forever flow under their bridge. The point guard is hardly a high-maintenance veteran and isn’t requesting a trade. At least not yet.
“It’s not tough. Just got to stay ready, find a way to stay ready,” Rose said. “It’s like everything, forcing me to evolve into who knows what now? But I always take it as a challenge.”
Still, there remains the question of Rose’s playing time, which dwindled to 11 ineffective minutes during Wednesday’s loss to the Nets. With Brunson, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes, Evan Fournier and Cam Reddish all ahead of him in the rotation, it’s tough to see a path to the minutes we expected from Rose.
“I’m in the unknown,” he repeated.