You expected something different?
You expected a humbler, less Jay Z (“My presence is charity”) response when asked who he, Derrick Rose, feels is the best player in the game. You expected a little more humility mixed with reality mixed with a little less gall. You expected him to remember he hasn’t really played ball at the “global icon” level for almost two years.
You hoped that he would remember what he just went through. You hope his comments do not come back and slap him in his face once he officially returns.
But what else would you want him to say? What would you really want to come out of Rose’s mouth and heart other than the mentioning of his own name?
When asked by CNN’s Pedro Pinto who he felt was the best player in the NBA, Rose said "Derrick Rose." It was -- contrary to seemingly popular response -- the one answer unexpected coming from him. Or anyone for that matter.
How could he? Is he stuck in his own Pooh reality? Was growing delusional part of his rehab? Did he even watch the NBA Finals six weeks ago?
According to the immediate (albeit quiet) street-level, non-Twitter/Facebook reaction, the only person who could have been excused or had the right to answer that question that way was Brenda, Derrick’s mother.
Two reactions come to mind in the immediate aftermath of this new Rose newsfeed: 1) Knowing him, was there a chance for there being any other answer? And 2) For Bulls or D.Rose fans, what other answer would you want to hear?
Those who know him know that if he had been asked that question when he was being wheeled into surgery after he tore his ACL/MCL that he would have answered it the same. This is why a huge part of his rehab was overlooked by so many. No one took into full consideration how much Rose’s supreme belief in what he can do plays a supreme role in what he actually can do.
Partial D.Rose is selfishly good for us only in theory. Never for him.
In order for Rose to be who he is, whom we have grown accustom to him being, whom we know he can become, he has to feel and believe at all times that he is without question in his mind the supreme player on the court every time he steps on it. That is the way he functions. That is the way he always functioned. That is what he knows to be true when it comes to the game we call basketball, but one he looks at as his canvas.
And he has to be able to say it aloud.
The only time -- again, if you look back and revisit his entire career -- where he may have felt differently was during the 2011 playoff series against the Miami Heat. And even then, Rose may have internalized that 4-1 series outcome as LeBron James & Co. having more help, not that James was actually better than he was.
Understand that in Rose’s mind he is still the reigning MVP. The only thing that has stopped him from repeating or reducing LeBron’s MVP total from four to two is injuries. Whenever Rose hears or sees his name as the “interruption” of LeBron having five straight MVP awards, he doesn’t hear or see what we do.
To him, LeBron interrupted his flow. In Rose’s basketball mind, like most of ours, LeBron may be the sun, and in that the world and all other planets (players) revolve around all things LeBron, but to Derrick, Derrick is the universe. Greater than.
That line of thought is what you want from a franchise player, the player you are banking on (literally) to get your team past the sun. Even if it’s a lie.
Which leads us to the second universal question: What other answer would we want to hear from him?
Look, there’s a fine line between arrogance, confidence and what someone needs to achieve greatness. Sometimes that line is blurred: Robin Thicke. Sometimes that line is crossed: Yeezus. But in the case of Derrick Rose, if he did not publicly state that he felt that he is still the best at playing this game at its highest level, why would a lesser or different answer be accepted?
At the beginning of the 2010-11 season, a journalist asked Rose about the expectation he set for himself entering his third season, and he said, "It's high. The way I look at it is why not, why can't I be the MVP of the league?" He feeds off media questions asked by those who don’t really know him, who don’t know what he’s capable of, and waits (and baits) for that one question to be asked so he can put the pressure on himself to make himself out to be a prophet.
With that mentality going into what could be the Bulls' final season before this current project/team is disbanded or destroyed, what other words out of Rose would any of us have liked to have heard?
In other words: If he doesn’t believe he’s that dude, why should we?
The problem seems to be that he said it. In his out-loud voice. When the microphone was hot. And in a city that just watched the Blackhawks have one of the greatest seasons ever and crown themselves champs for the second time with no player -- not Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane, who are close to being Rose’s equal in hockey (think about it) -- saying anything close to what Rose said. It comes off as extreme arrogance as opposed to necessary confidence.
But I ask again: What else would you want him to say?
If we are honest, that answer stays unanswered. Nothing. Nothing different.
We should want, need and appreciate Rose for finding a way through all the rehab, pressure and bad press to keep James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Carmelo Anthony behind him in the “best basketball player alive” race.
This game, at the level Rose competes, battles and wants to prove himself, chews up and spits out players who think any less of themselves. It makes becoming the leader of championship squads impossible. Greatness never embraces weakness.
Especially in those who don’t have the courage to openly speak truth to their personal power. Agree or disagree with the introspective assessment Rose made, for what this city is expecting out of him, any other answer would have opened a possible dose of realism we are unprepared to confront. Because if Rose is to return to who and what he once was, he had no other answer to give. There is no alternative realistic answer living inside of him. The best basketball player alive to him has to be him. Nothing else works. Not for what he feels he has to face, not for what he has yet to prove.
Not for what we have been conditioned to expect from him, even when his self-honesty is put into question.
If anyone reading this has a problem with that or expected a different response from Rose after getting his confidence back to where it naturally is supposed to be, then you had no idea who Derrick Rose really was to begin with.