Against Meatball-ism: Why Derrick Rose’s Refusal to Recruit is Actually Kind of the Worst
Let me start off by saying this: I love Derrick Rose
. I love it when he explodes like he’s Wile E. Coyote with ACME Rocket Skates attached to his feet
past a bewildered defender. I love when he dunks on everyone, big
. I love his fearlessness in the clutch
. So, believe me when I say, I don’t really like writing this piece. But Derrick Rose has developed one habit that I find particularly distasteful. He’s put ego over winning games. I know what you’re thinking. “Derrick Rose
? Ego over winning? What?” Well, it’s true – at least, as it pertains to this one habit of his.
Derrick Rose refuses to recruit the best players to play alongside him in Chicago. Rose, rather famously, refused to pick up the phone and call or text any of the marquee free agents available in the summer of 2010 to make them feel welcome in Chicago – that he would make room for them on his squad. It’s impossible to know whether Rose picking up the phone and recruiting would have lead to a different outcome in that free agency period, but it certainly couldn’t have hurt the Bulls chances of grabbing one of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or best case scenario, LeBron James. Now, Rose is out there, in public, saying the same things he did in 2010 about the 2014 free agent class. If anyone wants to come to Chicago, he’s cool with that, but he’s not recruiting anyone. As a Bulls fan, this practice makes me very annoyed. The Bulls landed Carlos Boozer and a handful of other useful players that summer, including Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer, which formed the famed “Bench Mob.” Through Rose’s dominant offensive play and Tom Thibodeau’s overall coaching brilliance, the Bulls lead the league in wins, despite missing on LeBron and the others.
Can you imagine what they could have accomplished with LeBron, though? I don’t think it’s controversial to say that the Bulls could have at least one championship in the last three years, and it’s likely that they would have at least matched what the Heat accomplished. Rose is younger and just as good as the latter day Dwyane Wade and in terms of overall impact, given their roles, Joakim Noah is every bit the contributor that Chris Bosh has been for the Heatles. Add in Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler, and Taj Gibson and you have a group that looks to be better than what has been a great Heat team for the last three years. The Bulls and Rose might be sitting on three rings right now, if he’d just picked up the phone. Rose has always said all he wants to do is win, but that’s obviously not the case. Rose wants to win on his own terms. He wants to win as the lead guy, the “Alpha Dog” on the team.
How do I know that Rose wants to win in that particular way? Well, I know it because Rose has recruited a player to the Bulls. The player he recruited- not coincidentally- posed absolutely no threat to Rose’s status as The Guy. You see, Rose recruited Kirk freakin’ Hinrich. So, Rose clearly does not have a pure “I will not recruit anyone” stance. What Rose has is a “I will not recruit a player who might be perceived to be better than me” stance and, frankly, that stinks. It stinks because it’s not in line with his “I just want to win” claims. It stinks because it means the Bulls have reduced chances of winning a championship. Most of all, it stinks because it’s silly pandering to “meatball” fans or to the meatball mentality. We all have a little meatball in us, but we don’t have to and needn’t give in to it.
Basically, the meatball is the fan who says things like “psssh stats, shmats! watch the games!!!” (never mind that said meatball usually only gets their info from SportsCenter and the few bits and pieces of playoff games they might watch). The meatball tweets and says things, in total seriousness, like “COUNT THE RINGZZZZ.” The meatball is, essentially, the caveman fan. It’s this caveman mentality that Rose is playing on, when he says things like he won’t recruit any other stars to play with him. Rose will not allow himself to be seen as weak, in the way that people accused LeBron of being weak when he decided he needed more help than Cleveland could offer and took his destiny into his own hands and jumped to Miami. The fact is that Rose exists in a league with free agency, where multiple star players are a practical requirement to win a title, and where those star players have egos that must be managed. If Rose really cares only about winning, he needs to put aside his own ego and be willing to make other star players feel welcome on what is, rightly, viewed as his team.
I will end with this one possible caveat and a rebuttal to that potential caveat. It could be that all of this talk of his refusal to recruit is due to Rose’s loyalty to his current teammates. This is the only way in which I can respect his comments. The Bulls have seemed an especially tight-knit group, year in, year out, despite the typical roster churn, since Tom Thibodeau took the helm and Rose’s game took off. It’s certainly possible that Rose’s comments are a tacit nod to the sufficiency of his teammates- an echo of Thibodeau’s oft-repeated refrain “we have more than enough to win.” It doesn’t feel that way, though, to me. If Rose had said, “I’m good with the guys in our locker room” or something similar, I could see that side of things. This, though, feels like macho posturing. I mean, listen to what he says, courtesy of Rappler.com, “I don’t recruit. If anyone wants to play with me, I don’t mind playing with, it could be anyone in the NBA, but as far as recruiting, I never did and never will.” The language is focused on him, not on his teammates. He’s also not telling the truth- he did recruit, he told everyone about it when he recruited Kirk Hinrich. Hopefully someone will convince Rose to drop the machismo and his inner meatball, so that the Bulls might actually get Derrick the help his brother seems so convinced he needs.