Stakes are high for Derrick Rose as new-look Knicks try to regain relevance
Will New York's roster upgrades pay off? Can Rose and Noah flourish in the Big Apple?
Another season, another subpar campaign for the Knicks in 2015-16.
After some off-the-court drama and not much improvement on the court, Derek Fisher was fired midway through the season. Kurt Rambis took over on an interim basis and unsurprisingly, the Knicks didn't improve.
This was all after New York fortified its roster with solid additions in Robin Lopez and Arron Afflao to pair alongside a healthy Carmelo Anthony. Coupled with the surprisingly impactful Kristaps Porzingis, it looked like the Knicks could at least be in the hunt for one of the lower playoff seeds in the East. But true to form, the Knicks self destructed a bit and finished with just 32 wins.
However, New York had a busy offseason, constructing what Knicks newcomer Derrick Rose considers a "super-team."
Joakim Noah (free agent), Rose (trade), Courtney Lee (free agent), Brandon Jennings (free agent)
Arron Affalo (Kings), Jose Calderon (Lakers), Langston Galloway (Pelicans), Jerian Grant (Bulls), Robin Lopez (Bulls), Derrick Williams (Heat)
Can a Rose grow from the concrete in New York?
Derrick Rose the player is currently the greatest on-going tragedy in the league.
Since becoming the youngest player in NBA history to win the MVP in 2011, Rose's career has been marred by injuries, inconsistent play and now off-court legal troubles. He is the textbook definition of "what if?" as he once looked like a player destined for the Hall of Fame. Yet now Rose is hardly even considered to be among the other great points guards in the league.
Phil Jackson clearly wondered the "what if" question about Rose. What if Rose left Chicago? Could a fresh start on a new team be all that he needs? This is a big question to ponder, but Jackson decided to take a chance by trading away one of the Knicks' better players in Robin Lopez among other assets to acquire Rose.
The Knicks did need a point guard though and Rose is an upgrade over last year's starter (Jose Calderon). Since returning from his multiple injuries, however, Rose's deficiencies have become glaring. Perhaps playing cautiously at the risk of injury, Rose doesn't get to the free-throw line as much as before. He is a poor three-point shooter (29.3 percent last season) and his defense leaves a lot to be desired.
Rose though is excellent at attacking off the dribble and can regularly score on mid-range pull-up jumpers or floaters. He can still read defenses and make cuts without the ball, which plays to the passing ability of his teammates like Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah.
Playing in New York could also be beneficial for Rose for two reasons. He'll be free from any pressures he may have had playing in his hometown of Chicago. Also, Rose will be a free agent next summer and he is most definitely seeking another big pay -- perhaps his last major contract. The motivation of a contract year could bring Rose's game back to a near-elite level.
This also kind of works in favor of the Knicks as well. If Rose produces, then their gamble paid off. If he doesn't, then the Knicks simply won't re-sign him.
But compounding any improvement or status-quo in his play has been Rose's sexual assault case, which has put his tenure with the Knicks to a less than auspicious start. Due to the trial, Rose has missed a large chunk of the preseason, which may not usually be that big of a deal but he is also missing practices. This is valuable learning time for Rose as he is trying to learn a new system and develop camaraderie with his new teammates. Rose was already likely going to go through an adjustment period but that time frame has now been extended.
What lingering effects the trial will have on Rose remains to be seen. However, this is a make-or-break year for Rose, and his play on the court this season could ultimately determine the future of his career.
Can Noah be rejuvenated in the city that raised him?
In just two years, Joakim Noah went from the Defensive Player of the Year and a MVP candidate to an after thought on the Bulls. Injuries ravaged the last couple of seasons for Noah, and at 31 years old, his prime may have already past. Yet again just two years ago Noah was an All-NBA player and considered one of the best defenders in the game.
Could his fall from grace truly be that dramatic?
The Knicks don't think so, as they signed Noah to a four-year, $72 million deal in the offseason. Noah truly wanted to come to New York as well, which is a good sign for the Knicks -- a franchise which has struggled with recruiting big free agents in the past. Of course, Noah may be not be as impactful as other bigger names, but he is still a well-known name in the league, and just from a fan standpoint, the Knicks hit a home run with the signing.
Noah mainly wanted to come to New York because his good friend Rose was traded to the Knicks, but he also grew up in the city and always dreamed of playing at Madison Square Garden on a nightly basis. He is so enthralled about playing in New York that Noah is being introduced as hailing from Hell's Kitchen, which is the type of hometown pride that makes Matt Murdock put on a red suit and fight criminals in the same Manhattan neighborhood.
But all of this is just the fun aspects of Noah playing for the Knicks. He needs to re-assert himself on the court to truly make an impact. Noah will need to remain healthy though, which has been a big if the past couple of seasons. However, if Noah remains injury free, he should pair nicely with Porzingis, providing a defensive presence alongside the developing young Knicks star.
Noah's game will also benefit from the fact that he doesn't need to play heavy minutes in New York. Porzingis will spend time at center, Kyle O'Quinn is a fine backup and rookie Willy Hernangomez may even get some consistent time on the court as well. The Knicks just need Noah to play 25-32 minutes a game, be their defensive leader and provide rim protection. Noah's ability to pass will also be huge for the Knicks. If he can do that while remaining healthy, Noah could be well on his way to making an impactful comeback.
Can the Knicks actually be a force in the East?
While Rose calling the Knicks a super-team is laughable, New York does have some serious talent.
Carmelo Anthony is a superstar player and became a better passer last season while remaining an elite scorer. Porzingis has the potential to be one of the better big men in the game and has the work ethic and drive to continually get better. Brandon Jennings has perhaps the biggest chip on his shoulder in the league and should be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Courtney Lee has played for a lot of different teams but he's always consistent and a strong defender and steady shooter. The jury is out on Rose and Noah, but if they can remain healthy, the Knicks could actually be pretty legit this season.
Now that's not to say that the Knicks will be challenging the upper echelon of the East. They are not a super-team. The Knicks do have talent though but they are not deep enough to be on the same level as the Cavaliers, Raptors, Celtics or perhaps even the Pacers.
Yet if health doesn't become a factor, New York should still be a playoff team in the East. A lower seeded one, but making the postseason would be a sign of progress (a foreign concept for the last few years) for the Knicks.
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