Derrick Rose is just 29 years old.
After joining the Cleveland Cavaliers on a veteran’s minimum deal in the offseason, Rose, a former NBA MVP, made it clear that he knew exactly where he stood. Despite his past numbers, highlight-reel dunks and athletic acrobatics, injuries have created a road block in his path to continued stardom.
In many ways, his deal with the Cavs was merely an opportunity to prove himself yet again to the other 29 teams in the league in the hopes of landing a more lucrative, multi-year contract in the summer of 2018.
But, unsurprisingly, Rose has missed 12 of Cleveland’s 19 games so far with an ankle injury. Although ankle injuries are somewhat common in today’s NBA, Rose has accumulated an incredible amount of wear and tear on his legs, having recovered from multiple serious knee injuries throughout his career.
This latest injury didn’t only have a physical toll on him, though. Per a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, Rose has left the Cavaliers and is re-evaluating his future in the NBA. Cleveland reportedly has real concerns over whether Rose will return to the team.
"He's tired of being hurt, and it's taking a toll on him mentally,” a source told Wojnarowski and McMenamin.
Since the start of the 2012 playoffs in which Rose suffered a torn ACL, he has played in 237 of a possible 413 regular-season contests.
Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue updated the media on the situation prior to Friday night’s game against the Charlotte Hornets.
"I don't have a time frame," Lue said. "You know, I want him to take his time. Like I said, it's a personal matter. Just know the team, the coaches, the organization, we all have his back. I wish him well, and we expect to have him back."
While the start of the year certainly didn’t go as planned, Lue still believes that Rose can make a positive difference once he recovers.
"He still is very talented, which you saw in the Washington game in the early part of this year [when Rose scored 20]. And even last year," Lue explained. "So, take as long as he needs to take, and we wish him well, and we want him back.”
While Rose has every right to contemplate his future and could easily find reasons to either come back or to retire, there are a few major reasons why he should rehab and give his future in the NBA another shot.
His teammates have his back
Before Friday night’s game, Dwyane Wade offered his support for Rose and admitted that he previously had the same internal conflict.
"I have been there. I'm sure guys before have contemplated the same thing. Especially when you have high expectations for yourself as a player, you're used to playing a certain level and a certain way, and every time you feel good and you think you're back, something else happens and something else happens and something else happens," Wade said. "Then it becomes more than just about [playing]. It takes away the love of the game a little bit. And that's the reason you play. And it becomes more than just about the money. And it starts becoming about your health and how you feel. How you feel. And it becomes tough. A lot of people don't really understand it at all.”
Fellow veteran Channing Frye also weighed in on the situation and made it clear that the team would love to welcome Rose back.
“I wish him the best regardless of what decision he makes, and I think at some point, I think each person individually in their lives have to make a decision about what makes him happy and what they want to do. So, much respect to him, he doesn't owe us anything. I mean, that man has sacrificed his life for this game, and, you know, I just wish him some happiness and wish him some clarity about whatever he needs to do, and, you know, take your time, figure things out, and if you want to come back we'd love to have you, and if not, you know, wish you the best," he explained.
Since Rose has been very introverted and has not been a vocal leader throughout his career, having the support of two of Cleveland’s most respected veterans speaks volumes. Also, Rose hasn't won a ring yet, and the Cavaliers have made it to the Finals for three-straight seasons. That would give his role an ultimate purpose.
Money, money and more money
Per ESPN’s Nick DePaula, if Rose walks away from the NBA, he could potentially be leaving more than $80 million of Adidas endorsement money on the table, as he still has seven years left on the 13-year, $185 million Adidas extension he signed in 2012.
If Rose files retirement paperwork, Adidas will reportedly not have to pay any of the remaining years on the deal.
Although Rose has made hundreds of millions of dollars in combined salaries and endorsement deals, he would be walking away from an astronomical amount of endorsement money if he retires. If he literally sits on a bench somewhere, he’d still contractually collect the $80 million.
That’s not to mention any future salaried earnings in the NBA. If he proved himself this season, he would be an attractive option for a team looking for point guard help next summer. Given the current market, tens of millions of more dollars could be heading his way in that regard as well.
He has shown flashes of his old self this season
Last season, Rose averaged 18.0 points and 4.4 assists in his only season with the New York Knicks. He played 32.5 minutes per game and appeared in 64 contests, proving that his body could withstand starter's minutes throughout roughly three-quarters of a full regular season.
This year, he is averaging 14.3 points and 1.7 assists in 26.9 minutes per contest in a new off-ball role alongside LeBron James, but when healthy, he showed flashes of his former quickness and athleticism.
He also made the most of his minutes, averaging 11.9 field goal attempts per game while shooting 47.0 percent. If he decides to return to the team, he’d be a natural fit on the second unit alongside some mix of Wade, Frye and other role players like Kyle Korver, Jeff Green and Iman Shumpert. Especially after Isaiah Thomas makes his team debut following his hip recovery, Rose’s presence on the second unit would give Cleveland a massive advantage over other Eastern Conference teams who would have trouble dealing with their depth.
If his heart is not in it anymore, that’s one thing. But it seems as though it would be a shame for Rose to walk away from the game that he once made a profound impact on.
There’s no better story than a redemption story.