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Against Meatball-ism: Why Derrick Rose’s Refusal to Recruit is Actually Kind of the Worst

US Presswire

US Presswire

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 and small. 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, “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.

  • backell

    Isn’t there a bit of “post hoc ergo propter hoc” involved here?

    I mean, are there not other possible reasons that he could have recruited Kirk, such as Kirk was his friend and a bit of a mentor when he came into the league?

    Jumping on one possible reason at the exclusion of all others, merely because it fits your preconceptions is fallacious, no?

    And Rose did text LBJ by the way:

    He may not have recruited him hard, but he did reach out. There’s also nothing to indicate that if he had recruited James more adamantly that it would have made a difference. And there’s the fact that Rose was not even deemed a top-10 player at the time.

    I think it’s just not his personality. I think if the Bulls want a recruiter on their team, Noah is the better voice. It’s not just automatically about Rose wanting to protect his alpha status on the team. You need more “evidence” of that than a couple of misrepresented facts to draw that conclusion.

    • zoemax49

      And what about sir Bryant. Would he recruit someone he deemed his equal. Oh forgot he’s the greatest in his mind

    • nbacouchside

      I’m willing to grant that maybe Kirk was a special case, but that’s beside the point. He should set aside his ego and drop the macho posturing. It’s nauseating and one of the worst parts of sports.

      It may not be his personality, but he’s going out of his way to say he’s above recruiting, basically. It’s almost anti-recruiting. He’s on that “No New Friends” crap and it sucks.

      • backell

        Where is the “macho posturing.” You’re just assigning that characteristic to him. Who says it’s about ego? That’s just more supposition.

        If it’s not his personality, there’s no “but” to it. And he’s not going out of his way to say he’s “above recruiting.” In fact he never said he’s “above recruiting” at all.

        Saying you’re not recruiting is not the same as saying your above it.

        Part of the problem here is that you have conclusion and your trying to shoehorn what happens into that conclusion. That’s not honest logic.

        • nbacouchside

          Look at the quote. He goes out of his way to say he’s never recruited and never will do it. That’s about as close to saying he’s above it as it gets without using the exact words. I’m not trying to shoehorn any sort of conclusion. This is how his comments strike me. I can’t really believe anyone could look at what he’s said and not see the overall narrative he’s trying to get out there- that he’s not like these other guys, that he’s the lone wolf, like Kobe, and that he doesn’t need to recruit help. It actually seems more dishonest, to me, to ignore the full measure of his comments than to read into the clear subtext of them. He’s basically subtweeting LeBron every time he says this stuff. He’s trying to throw the difference between himself and LeBron (who admitted he needed help, got it, and hey, look, won 2 titles with another Finals appearance to boot) into starker relief. Call me crazy, but I’d like the guy that wants to win above all else, truly.

          I love Rose as much as any Bulls fan, but I also want the Bulls to win- as much as possible- and him taking such a hostile position towards recruiting is harmful to that goal. That’s where I’m coming from with this.

          • backell

            What do you mean “Look at the quote. He goes out of his way to say he’s never recruited and never will do it?” Yes, he says he’s not going to recruit. That doesn’t mean he “went out of his way” to say it.

            It’s not like he was asked if he prefers ham or pastrami sandwiches and he replied, “I will never recruit.” He was ASKED about whether he would recruit and he answered the question directly. That’s not “going out of his way” to do anything but answer the question he was asked.

            Whether his comment “strikes” you that way doesn’t really matter. It’s how he intended it. It’s not the content of what he said that you’re distorting, it’s the context. Then you’re drawing conclusions from that.

            This is one thing the media is famous for. Asking question to get a controversial answer and then making it seem as thought that controversial answer was something that the athlete was just itching to say.

            Then you put OTHER things that he DIDN’T say into the mix that are backed up by your context, not his content.

          • nbacouchside

            The question didn’t ask if he would *ever* recruit, it just asked if he would this summer. He went out of his way to say “I don’t recruit” to start and then he finished with “I’ve never recruited and I never will.” So yeah, it was not the question that lead to the controversial answer. He easily could have said, “no, I won’t” or “I’m good with my teammates, we have enough to win” (this would have made Thibs happy), but he didn’t. He said he doesn’t and won’t ever recruit. So yes, the content of his answer, given the limited nature of the question, does provide evidence for my view of things. I didn’t come to this conclusion out of the blue, you guys.

          • backell

            Eh, that’ still shoe-horning. He didn’t bring up the subject of recruiting.

            And you’re shoe-horning his motives in. Unless you have a personal relationship with him, I don’t think you have a basis for that.

            And what he “could have said” is moot. He just chose to answer the question.

            I read the interview, absent this piece, and did not jump to the conclusion, “Derrick Rose’s giant ego will never play with another star.” The only way you derive that is if you had that opinion before you read the article.

          • nbacouchside

            It’s not really shoe-horning. It’s reading between the lines. And no, it’s not the only way you can derive that opinion, since I didn’t have that opinion until I heard that he was out, yet again, telling people recruiting was something he didn’t do- like it was beneath him. I’ve never thought of Rose as a particularly egotistical player (even when he asked, in all total sincerity, why couldn’t he be the MVP and then when he later said he thought he was the best player in the world), but something about the “I don’t and won’t recruit” mantra rubs me wrong.

          • backell

            Reading between the lines is just another way of saying forcing the narrative.

            You’ve got all kind of forced language here. “In an interview” is “out yet again”
            Telling people he doesn’t want to recruit is “it was beneath him.”
            And saying it one time is a “mantra.”

            All the negative aspects of this are infused by your language, not by the incidents or what he said.

  • Koala Bear

    you say that derrick’s approach seems suited to appeasing “meatballs” but dont appear to stop to consider that NBA players, in addition to being insecure and egotistical, are themselves “meatballs”. i see it as a perfectly reasonable strategy (whether its intentional or not is immaterial) for derrick to be exciting as hell on the court and clint eastwood off the court because i can see how that could be very impressive to “meatballs”. if derrick is buddies with another player already i would hope he uses that relationship to build a team, but it is not at all clear to me that “recruiting” someone who is merely a colleague would be better than what derrick is doing now.

    i say this because the real focus of the blame should be the front office. the way i see it, its derricks job to look awesome and the FO’s job to sell free agents on a specific vision. this is something which the bulls, with their ludicrous “letting the market come to us” tactic, utterly fail. remember the summer of 2010 when mike miller was telling stories about how pat riley presented his vision like some kind of evangelical preacher? or this past season, when daryl morey busted his ass making a huge presentation to show dwight how great he was and how much they have thought about maximizing his talents? yeah harden was there too, but the sale job was morey’s doing. the bulls real problem is they cant or wont do this, which is unfortunate because its their job to paint pictures, convince people, flatter them and perform fellatio if need be.

    • nbacouchside

      These are all fair points. I just would really prefer to see him steering clear of seeming so hostile to the idea of recruiting other stars.

  • juanmon

    Maybe someone already covered this below, but i read in a couple of different places that Rose didn’t want to go recruiting LeBron, etc., at the expense of his current teammates. meaning recruit LeBron, he still goes to the Heat, Luol knows Rose was trying to replace him, wierd out team chemistry.

  • Ken Hoyd

    Uhhh Kevin… How can I put this… Oh yeah… You’re an Idiot!!! Someone should authorize a Drone Strike on your computer!

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