He is no longer Pooh.
It doesn't even feel right calling Derrick Rose that anymore. In Pooh, there was innocence. Unabridged, untainted, untouched. Almost God-like.
And now ...
The truth is that innocence left a long time ago when it comes to Rose. It left both him and how we saw him. And it happened before he became labeled a traitor and before we all turned on him.
But losing that innocence is part of growing up, part of manhood that comes with going through life and life-changing experiences. You see the world differently and often when that happens, the world begins to see you differently, too. In most cases, you and the world grow together, in sync. But when the differences force you to grow in separate directions, you find yourself in the exact spot Rose is in now.
When your life gets flipped-turned upside down and not even Will Smith can save you.
The love lost between Rose and Chicago is epic. It went from a 98/2 love/hate split to 25/75 real quick.
"Just a kid from Chi" rings hollow. It's just a slogan now, a marketing ploy chipped away by injuries, by his brother's presence in his career, by the money he earns without showing anything for it, by his penchant for not saying the wrong thing but more "not the right thing," and by who he grew up to be.
An entire city that once had nothing but love for Rose has lost all patience and empathy with and for him. A man on "Windy City Live" actually said he felt "betrayed" by Rose. Sarah Spain says she "absolutely" doesn't feel the same about him as she once did. Local blogger Adam Bumpers wrote, "Are you playing to win the tournament or are you playing for ulterior motives? Derrick Rose's premature comments on his far-from-upcoming free agency are a prime example of this. Rose is more concerned with making money than actually winning a ring, in my opinion. And he is already in a $90 million contract with the Bulls in addition to a $185 million endorsement deal with Adidas." My wife constantly shakes her head every time a sentence comes out of my mouth in defense of him.
Even on a national level, the love is gone. On his radio show, Dan Le Batard recently put Rose in the same category as RG III and A-Rod, meaning in the eyes of the public, they've gone from greatest of all time (G.O.A.T.) to goat. He should have just thrown in Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong for extra measure.
At the heart of all of this, giving Rose the benefit of the doubt and some understanding are missing. There's a lack of consideration for what Rose has mentally and physically endured.
One member of the Bulls organization suggested this to me as guidance for Rose: "Keep God first, be humble and stay true. Don't lose sight of how and why you achieved everything you have."
And as beautiful a suggestion as that is, there's an entire city that feels it is those words in the second sentence that have become the whole problem with Rose in the first place.
Life has grown up around Rose. And he has grown up with it, just not in the way many would like to see or care to embrace. The room that is often afforded to prodigies to "do them" as they grow into themselves no longer applies to Rose because the city is not at all "feeling" who he has become.
The soft-spoken, easy-to-root-for, humble player who came from Chicago concrete has progressively become an overpaid, disingenuous has-been who doesn't seem to realize that he was not supposed to turn out like this. Nor was his career, in the eyes of many, which on the surface of this "hatefest" seems to be a purposefully forgotten element in his transformation from savior to sinner.
When he says "my day is coming up soon," does anyone think that he isn't specifically speaking about money as much as he is about the two years he has in front of him to prove to everyone (including himself) that he is a max-level/max-contract player? Is anyone considering that Rose might actually have to think that way mentally so that he is able to play at a max level and shoot for a max contract in the next two years?
Or how he maybe has to go so far beyond the norm in thinking past the physical aspect of playing basketball because his body continues to betray him that something personally beyond just "helping this team win a championship" is the only way he can function at an elite level to help this team win a championship?
It's all very much the same as when he mentioned thinking about his "kids' graduations" and "board meetings" once he's done playing. Did anyone stop to consider the things he's had to think about through years of rehab without knowing if he'd ever be able to play again?
Does anyone consider how dark his life has become over the past four years? Can we for once remove the money and fame from the equation and focus on the reality of what Rose has had to deal with?
Remember when they took football away from Maurice Clarett? Remember how that turned out? Well, here's the new Clarett to the third power. Someone who has had the game taken away, not by man, but by God or some higher power; someone who reached a height in his career that Clarett never touched, but instead of being "wronged," he has been tortured by his own body; someone who had no control over what happened to him or why his career was playing out the way it was; someone (unlike Clarett) who did everything he was told to by executives, medical teams and coaches to get back on the court, only to have history repeat itself once he returned.
Rose has had 14 injuries since he won the NBA MVP in 2011 (five injuries, one surgery and 29 games missed alone last season, which was supposed to be his "comeback") and he missed 237 of a possible 350 games over that same period. The day he gets back on the court after spending the first offseason in three years working on his game instead of rehabbing, he gets an elbow to the face and fractures his orbital bone.
Yet, we vilify Derrick Rose for not being the same. We want our Pooh back. Hell, so does he.
Blaming Rose for what has been called his "fall from grace" or for not honoring his contract(s) (including Adidas), or just bringing up the money he's been paid over four years while making a little over 100 on-court appearances is more disingenuous than anything Rose has been accused of being disingenuous about.
It's almost as cruel as the non-stop injuries have been on him.
Having contempt for Rose for not saying the correct, "stick to the script," "stay on point," thing while answering a question and for keeping it 100 and being honest to who he's become and what he has to deal with is almost as bad. Especially without considering the mental toll this whole saga has taken on him.
They ... my bad ... we, Chicagoans, did a very similar thing to Jabari Parker during his senior year when he was coming back from injury and to Isiah Thomas when he walked off the court without shaking the Bulls' hands. We played the doubt and disown cards. So there should not be any surprise by the way we've "flipped" on Rose. History has proven, unfortunately, that this is who we really are.
Stuck in the middle of that hate is a young man who at the age of 24 basically had his career taken away from him, and for four years following that has been trying to get it back with no intimate assistance or help from anyone because no athlete in the history of any sport has ever gone through anything close to what he has.
And all the while his own city has forsaken him.
As Kendrick Lamar's last word on "The Blacker The Berry" suggest: Hypocrites.
"Derrick Rose might need to get a tattoo of the whole bible with his luck. Chicago fans are upset! They are like this is some bull!" -- Comedian Huggy Lowdown on the "Tom Joyner Morning Show."
If any athlete needs a reinvention, it is Rose.
"What is interesting about Derrick Rose's career is the public has seen him grow as a man and a spokesperson for himself and the team. For someone who has played in so little games, he is still the face of the team. He has gone from a shy introvert to an aggressively vocal (player) on the court and defender of himself and team to the media," communications strategist Micaeh Johnson of Carte Blanche LTD, a Chicago-based public relations firm, told me.
When asked if she could give Rose any advice, her response was sincerely direct.
"I would advise (him) to use this time to physically recover and when he returns, to humble himself to his fans by asking for their continued belief in his game and integrity and explode all of his anger and disappointing emotions into the competition and game.
"In short: Recover, stay away from the media, don't respond to the sport of media and fan s-- talking, speak to his fans with humility and confidence when he returns and play ball."
Rose is not unaware, aloof or misguided (or "dumb" or "stupid" as many in the local media have felt way too comfortable calling him) as much as he is different. Chicago, different. Kanye, different. Which is now being held against him. As messed up as Richard Daley was as mayor, Chicago has still not turned on him for leaving the city in the shape that it is (budget, school system, construction, neighborhood neglect, etc.) the way it has turned on Rose.
Seriously think about that for a minute.
The sympathy and understanding are gone. And Rose will never get either back. At this point, Rose probably doesn't want them back and Chicago will never think about giving sympathy and understanding to a native son who it feels betrayed the city.