Derrick Rose has been the butt of jokes for a few years now. And he might’ve overplayed his hand thinking he’d get anywhere near a max contract this summer once his year of purgatory was over in New York. But his landing spot may actually give him the last laugh on all those who snicker behind his back, doubt his skills and create memes about him.
By going to the Cleveland Cavaliers and signing for one year, Rose is betting on himself and thinking a year immersed in the greatness of LeBron James – and a year removed from the stench that is the New York Knicks – can only help him next summer when he’s a free agent again. The free agent money will be deep again – perhaps the last time that happens for a while, so Rose’s strategy is understandable.
The Cavs got Rose for just $2.1 million – essentially minimum wage for a former league Most Valuable Player. But with Kyrie Irving’s trade request dominating the National Basketball Association news cycle, Rose just may luck into an even more prominent role than he initially expected with Cleveland. The Cavs and Los Angeles Lakers were the only teams to officially make offers to Rose. But despite the discrepancy in the offers (the Lakers offered over $4 million), Rose figured taking less from a title contender means more to him than cashing large checks while toiling away for a bad team for the second straight season.
The Lakers tried to entice Rose, offering more money to be a mentor off the bench to their prized rookie Lonzo Ball. The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft balked, citing his desire to play for a winner.
“A one-year deal on a bad team to try and put up numbers — we did not want to entertain that way of thinking,” Rose’s agent B.J. Armstrong told ESPN. “Getting up every day to go to the gym to just try and put up numbers – that’s not who he is. He didn’t want to chase anything this summer other than, ‘Hey, let’s get around a group of guys who are like-minded, who are pursuing winning and be a part of that.’”
The Lakers aren’t the clown show that is the Knicks, but still, in Rose’s mind, the money and more playing time was overshadowed by the chance to play with James and perhaps play in the NBA Finals.
The money will take care of itself down the road, noted a person very close to the former league MVP.
“He told me he wanted to start and have a chance to win a championship,” reasoned the source who has his ears very close to the ground on all things NBA.
The source also said that once Rose got wind of Irving’s discord, his eyes widened and ears perked.
“The Kyrie thing made his eyes light up,” said the source. “He doesn’t want to come off the bench for a losing team … [besides] $4.3 million in Cali and $2.1 million in Ohio is pretty close money-wise after taxes.”
Pairing with James, possibly becoming the new starting point guard should Irving’s wishes be granted, having the opportunity to play closer to his hometown of Chicago, perhaps even making the Finals, and maybe even cashing in big next summer were all great reasons to choose Cleveland.
All jokes and memes aside, Rose averaged 18 points per game (and shot 47 percent from the field – his highest percentage since the 2009-10 season) in a Triangle offense that’s not designed for point guards to be big scorers. So, playing with a guy like James, for a former NBA point guard in Tyronn Lue who knows the importance of a scoring guard may be just what Rose needs to get the last laugh on his detractors.