by Deb Seymour
For a number of years over the past two decades, the New York Knicks didn’t give fans much to cheer about. They suffered from a few scandals, they didn’t perform well, their head coaches were both frustrated and frustrating. Over the last few years, however, the Knicks seem to have been turning a corner. And their newly relocated (and excellent) crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets notwithstanding, New York City is still Knicks’ territory. Eventually, the Nets may become to the Knicks what the Mets are to the Yankees and the Islanders to the Rangers; but they’re not quite there yet. That the rivalry game that took place at the Barclays Center this past week featured louder Knicks’ fan chants than Nets’ fan chants exemplifies that New York City is still mostly a Knicks town; and how the team’s players perform — whether well or terribly — is still going to grab the headlines at the back of the sports pages at least as much as the Nets.
Last year the Knicks made the playoffs for the first time since 2013; and though they lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, there was plenty of excitement about the team’s ability to reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years. In “What Are We Seeing from the NY Knicks So Far This Season?” (this blog, https://bigapplebitesports.com/2021/10/27/what-are-we-seeing-from-the-ny-knicks-so-far-this-season/), there’s discussion about what the Knicks were doing right last season — and what we hoped they’d do even better this season. And yet, although the team started out hot, they’re regressing to the mean: in other words, they’ve become a .500 team and most certainly aren’t outskilling their opponents on the floor most nights. Injuries have contributed to the mediocrity we’re seeing in at least one quarter per game; but that can’t be the sole excuse for the starting lineup performing as poorly, both offensively and defensively, as they have over the past couple of weeks.
Enter the Knicks’ bench. And that includes a number of players who’ve been pretty outstanding in the minutes they’ve been allotted on the floor. Obi Toppin’s been a revelation. Alec Burks has taken Kemba Walker’s spot in the starting lineup; Walker for now having been banished completely from the rotation. Immanuel Quickley’s been so good he’s been slotted into RJ Barrett’s spot in the starting lineup during Barrett’s recent illness. But the bench player I most want to focus on here is Derrick Rose; the player whose early career won him multiple awards and who once upon a time was a legitimate NBA star.
As is well documented, Rose’s basketball career has been plagued by injury, mostly to his knees and ankles. Having been drafted by his hometown Chicago Bulls back in 2008, Rose began a career that featured a Rookie of the Year award and, later, a Most Valuable Player award. In a career that showed huge promise, however, injuries interrupted several seasons for Rose and he’s played for multiple teams since the 2008 draft. This current stint marks his second with the Knicks, and he’s certainly making the most of it.
We can talk about Derrick Rose’s stats (and we will); but there’s something else that he brings to this Knicks team, and it’s not always reflected in the stats. There’s a leadership quality that’s apparent just from viewing the games. Make no mistake about it — when Rose is on the court, he’s the floor captain. He may not always be scoring more points than other players, but he has a voice and they listen to him. He still has the elite basketball moves from his younger days even if he no longer has the same speed or stamina; and there are intangibles that show up in his passing game and his defense and his ability to anticipate the opponent’s next play that will never show up in the stats. With experience, comes knowledge. And that knowledge is valuable even to a team that’s clearly performing below ability.
Here are Derrick Rose’s stats, to date, from this season:
Compared with his career stats, there’s obviously a decline in most areas. Rose is older, he’s no longer a starter, and he’s had his share of injuries. But the field goal percentage is still there. The effective field goal percentage hasn’t dropped by much. And the player efficiency rating is still there. And we’ve all witnessed the number of minutes he’s played this season, to date. Although he briefly missed time with an ankle injury, for the most part Rose has been very present in most games.
In “What do the Stats Tell Us About This Year’s NY Knicks Thus Far?” (this blog, https://bigapplebitesports.com/2021/11/13/what-do-the-stats-tell-us-about-this-years-ny-knicks-thus-far/), the +/- score for many of the Knicks is discussed. Here’s the current update on Rose’s +/-: +110. Yes, he still has the highest +/- score on the team this season. Immanuel Quickley is close behind at +107. That’s a recent jump, and a critical one. (And for anyone wondering why Kemba Walker hasn’t been playing, his +/- is a pretty shocking -122.) (All +/- sourced from Statmuse.com: https://www.statmuse.com/nba/ask/knicks-plus-minus-for-all-players)
The Knicks stand at exactly .500 at this moment, with a record of 11-11. To be sure, there’s still a lot of season to go and plenty of time to turn things around. How they go about their business and manage to change up their game to again contend is a challenge for the coaching team. And for now, we’re all watching and waiting. But the team’s crucial contributors have to be just that — contributors. And, to my mind, no one can criticize the veteran leader Derrick Rose for what he’s brought to this season. Perhaps some of the younger players need to watch a little more carefully, listen a little more closely, and learn from a player who once upon a time was destined for greatness.