Midway through last season, Derrick Rose was looking to get paid. He was going to enter the first unrestricted free agency of his career hoping for a $150 million max contract, according to ESPN’s Ian Begley, comparable to the deal Mike Conley signed with the Grizzlies two summers ago.
But in a drastic change of events, the former NBA Most Valuable Player signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers on a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum of $2.1 million on Monday. That’s almost $20 million Rose will see fall off his salary after collecting $21.3 million with the New York Knicks last season.
Life comes at you fast. One moment, Rose was on top of the world, wowing crowds with his otherworldly display of speed and athleticism. The next, he takes the least possible bit of money to join a contender in hopes of competing for a championship.
Is Derrick Rose a minimum player at this point of his career? Most certainly not.
After all, Rose averaged 18 points and 4.4 assists, albeit on a floundering Knicks team that finished the season with a 31-51 record. He still showed an ability to get to the rack and drill midrange jumpers and, at times, his athleticism was reminiscent of the youngest player to ever win MVP in league history.
But Rose’s tenure in New York was underscored by off-court troubles. He started the season battling a civil sexual assault case — one he later won, but kept him off the court much of the preseason. He later went AWOL for a game, missing the Knicks’ Jan. 9 matchup with the Pelicans without telling the team. Finally, after battling nagging back injuries early on, the oft-injured guard ended the season on a low note, suffering a low-level torn meniscus that swiped away the final eight games of his year.
All of Rose’s off-court issues likely contributed to the lukewarm market on him. He reportedly considered the Lakers, Bulls, and Bucks — teams that could have offered more lucrative, possibly longer-term contracts than Cleveland’s one-year deal. But at this stage, Rose wants to prove two things: that he can still play and that he can stay healthy.
LeBron James’ Cavaliers provide such an opportunity. LeBron took J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert — two Knicks throwaways years ago — and turned them into solid, two-way rotation players. Rose wants one thing: to win. He became miserable as the losses compounded in New York, and now, he has a chance to compete at the highest level of them all.
Let's Rock G!!— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 24, 2017
It’s on Rose to make the best of this opportunity, because if he doesn’t, there’s no telling what the market will look like next season.