Bulls star Derrick Rose created a minor stir on Tuesday when he was asked about recruiting additional talent to Chicago, specifically the hyper-charismatic, 10,000 pound gorilla on the NBA trade market, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. It wasn't an improper question to ask Rose; in fact, it was probably a necessary one. But Rose gave the answer you would expect him to give, combining a careful toeing of the company line with loyalty to teammates and the aloof bewilderment to the world at large that we've come to expect from our native manchild. You'll never believe it, but D. Rose doesn't see himself as much of a recruiter.
"That's just not me," he told ESPNChicago.com on Tuesday night. "My whole life, I've never been the type of player where I've recruited people like that."
"I've never been a coach," he continued with a laugh. "I don't know how the conversation would go, actually, if I called him. 'What's up?' or whatever? I don't know how to even approach someone about coming here. It would be super hard."
It's almost unfair to psychoanalyze anything Rose says, even if it comes with the territory of his lofty stature. He's been programmed for success, and the traps that come with it, from such an early age that it forces you to wonder if he's even capable of original thought. It's the secret to not only his wide appeal but also his success: Rose is smarter than you think because he will never shoot himself in the foot. If he comes at the expense of a few thought-provoking quotes, so be it.
Rose's response was as safe as it was mundane. I don't even believe his answers qualify as news, and part me even feels guilty for exploiting the quotes. After all, there was certainly nothing wrong -- or even controversial -- about what Rose said. Coming off the heels of the news that Howard was upset with Orlando because they did not take his personnel suggestions, it's refreshing to see a superstar of Rose's ilk content with being only a player, not a GM. The Bulls haven't been so lucky in the past: they faced this same issue many moons ago with a young Michael Jordan. Just months before MJ would win his first of six championships in 1991, he publicly blasted the Bulls for failing to acquire Walter Davis, a fellow North Carolina alum.
Angry about the Bulls` failure to trade for Walter Davis, Michael Jordan said it was ``the same old stuff`` after learning Davis had been dealt to Portland.
He added that if he were general manager, ``The Bulls would be much stronger.``
When Jordan finally got his chance to be an executive some 20 years later, he would go on to draft Kwame Brown No. 1 overall and Adam Morrison No. 3 overall, as well as trade Richard Hamilton for Jerry Stackhouse to help kick-start the Detroit Pistons' mid-aughts run of Eastern Conference dominance. General managers have their jobs for a reason, no matter how competent or incompetent we armchair GMs think they are. Yes, this even goes for David Kahn. It's safe to say Rose recognizes this.
Rose will likely never act so privileged or authoritative, and he shouldn't be expected to. He's always been a bit of a wallflower, the type of player who prefers to let his game do the talking. After all, for Rose to say he wanted Howard in Chicago, that would mean several of his current teammates would be on a plane to Orlando. That's simply not the way D. Rose does business. Remember, this is the same star who, when asked about the Bulls' shooting guard woes two weeks back, said "Keith's my guy. I'll roll with Keith."
Keith Bogans averaged under five points per game as the Bulls' starting two guard a season ago, and posted a PER of 9.0. Perhaps Derrick is loyal to a fault.
This would all be fine and well if the NBA wasn't such an ever-developing landscape. The formation of the Miami Heat last season hasn't yet fully ushered in the dawn of the Super Team era, but it feels like we're on the precipice. Stars will align to ram heads at breakneck speeds, and the working class will only be able to watch. It takes a perfect storm for a Super Team to form -- an existing star, a big market, an attractive city, an owner willing to emphasize winning over profits -- and the simple fact of the matter is that only a handful of clubs even have the opportunity to aspire to such great heights. One of those clubs is our Chicago Bulls.
This isn't about whether or not the Bulls should go full bore after Howard, as I'm more blind to the debate than is probably reasonable for a pre-existing 62-win team. Yes, they should get him, at whatever cost. But as the Howard story has raveled and unraveled at a snail's pace, we've learned that the Orlando big man wants no part of the Bulls. He gave a list of four teams he would sign an extension with: the Magic, Lakers, Mavericks, and Nets. Chicago is nowhere to be found.
It seems likely that Howard doesn't know what he wants. As with any player of his caliber, Howard is bound to have a lot of people in his ear. People telling him to go to LA, sell-out, turn Hollywood, and join the Lakers' unparalleled big man lineage. People telling him to join forces with Deron Williams and Mikhail Prokhorov, and try to take over the globe. People telling him to stay in Orlando. From a purely basketball sense, though, the Bulls are the only logical trading partner.
No other team has valuable, expendable assets like Chicago. A trade to New Jersey would supposedly center around rebound-free 7-footer Brook Lopez, but aren't Joakim Noah and Luol Deng each more valuable? Young bigs Omer Asik and Taj Gibson would seem to make it a slam dunk: if Orlando was to pull off a two-team trade, I doubt anyone could match a potential package from the Bulls.
Of course, it also makes sense for Howard, even if he's correct to realize how awful the weather is here. Rose and Howard would fit together perfectly on the court: one a ball dominating point not averse to playing hero ball, the other the most imposing physical presence and defensive force the league has seen in some time.
Yet, the Bulls aren't on Howard's list. Why? Could it be because Rose doesn't want him here?
I think it's certainly possible. We all know Rose just wants "wee-in", and he could probably pencil in multiple titles upon Howard's arrival. But Rose's recent quotes on recruiting brought to mind a story by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski from around this time last year. It was loaded with anecdotes regarding Rose's desires during the wild free agency period in the summer of 2010:
Reach out to him, Chicago management had pleaded with Derrick Rose. LeBron doesn’t think you want him here. That’s what they told the Bulls’ franchise star in July, a request that was met with dutiful respect from Rose. Sure, he told the Bulls. I’ll shoot him a text. Rose is polite this way, honoring obligations and orders from above. Nevertheless, it would change nothing. To LeBron James, the message was unmistakable, sources said: I can take you or leave you – and that could never sell the needy King.
Privately, he wanted Atlanta free agent Joe Johnson as his shooting guard, a way to balance the floor with Noah and Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng. James and Wade would’ve taken the ball and diminished Rose as the Bulls point guard. It never appealed to him.
Wojnarowski is a titan of a reporter, but at times his bias towards James is clear as day. In the always humble Rose, Wojnarowski found the perfect foil for James' villainy. But given Woj's impeccable reputation and air-tight sources, do you really doubt his words?
If the premise here is "Rose doesn't want to be teammates with Dwight Howard", it likely comes off as a critique from my end. That's not the intention. Derrick Rose is coming off a season that saw him lead his team to the best record in basketball and reach the Eastern Conference Finals. At 22 years old, he became the youngest MVP in league history. If Rose thinks he can win it all without the aid of another superstar, so be it. It's commendable, even.
After all, Rose has nothing but time on his side. The addition of the new amnesty rules to the collective bargaining agreement only extends Chicago's championship window: they have an out on that Carlos Boozer contract when need be. Boozer won't be strangling Chicago's cap space during the final years of that deal like he probably would have been under the previous CBA. That'll come in handy when and if Chicago needs to add another All-Star level player.
It appears like Rose doesn't think he needs one, though. Who are we to doubt him? If Chicago spends the next two or three seasons unable to get past the Heat or any other as-yet-unformed Super Team, Rose will likely reconsider. After all, anything to
"wee-in" win. Until then, Rose seems perfectly content with his current crew. If he believes in himself, we should believe in him.
Ricky O'Donnell is a writer and editor in Chicago and the founder of the Chicago sports blog Tremendous Upside Potential. He is always very much available for hire. Follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.