Hip-hop legend, LL Cool J, once rapped “don’t call it a comeback/I been here for years/rocking my peers, putting suckas in fear” on his iconic song, “Momma Said Knock You Out”.
If you followed any bit of Derrick Rose’s first season with the Detroit Pistons, you’ll realize that these lyrics are an embodiment of the rejuvenated season that Derrick Rose had during the 2019-20 NBA season. He wasn’t necessarily the same player that won the MVP back in 2011, but he was still a player that opposing teams had to game plan for.
Over the last couple of seasons, Rose has been battling back to regain some of his MVP form. After Bouncing around with teams like the New York Knicks and the Cleveland Cavaliers, after initially leaving the Chicago Bulls, Rose started to find a resurgence in his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
When training camp began back in October 2019, Detroit Pistons Head Coach Dwane Casey was quoted saying to the Detroit Free Press, that Rose “looks like he’s got rockets in his back pockets,”. He elaborated—that at Rose’s height and size, with the combination of speed and strength he possesses, he will be a problem for most opponents.
Coach Casey, being keenly aware of Rose’s track record when it comes to injuries, didn’t want to place a heavy load on his (then 30-year-old) newly acquired player. He wanted to use Rose’s dynamic scoring attributes in spurts during games to provide a boost to their offense off the bench. But he also did not want to add any extra wear and tear to Rose’s already injury-prone body in the process.
Originally, the plan was to bring Rose to the Pistons, to become the team’s sixth man off the bench and help backup former Detroit Pistons incumbent starting point guard Reggie Jackson.
But after the first two games of the season, Jackson developed soreness in his knee and sustained a stress fracture in his back that sidelined him for close to three months. During that three-month time span, the Pistons would rotate between Rose starting games or coming off the bench.
During the preseason, Rose showed glimpses of what the team could look like with him at the helm running point position off the bench. But once the season officially began, Rose started to showcase a new form of himself.
This newly evolved form of Rose was a player that was no longer a vertical threat when attacking the rim as he did in his early Chicago Bulls days…he had now become a more experienced and tactful player.
He looked like a player that has learned from their pitfalls and mistakes and has developed into a better all-around player to strengthen areas of his game that were once weaknesses. His crossovers were still tight and deceptive, and his running floater became his go-to shot.
As the season carried on and the Pistons were without players like Jackson, Blake Griffin, and Luke Kennard due to injuries, the team started relying heavily more and more on Rose to help carry the scoring load of the team.
And Rose admirably assumed that responsibility—and flourished in that role.
He showed that even though he was no longer one of the top point guards in the league, he was still a player that commanded the respect and attention of the defense every time he stepped on to the court.
Rose, never being known for his shooting prowess still annihilated his defenders with shifty and quick crossover moves. He became one of the better finishers in the league, ending the season with a 53% two-point field-goal average. He utilized his God-given speed and strong 6’3” frame to handle contact at the basket and finished plays either on a fastbreak or in a half-court setting.
His passing abilities were also on display as he was always looking to kick it out to an open shooter in the corner for a three-point shot or pass it to a trailing big man out a pick-and-roll. You could tell that he was becoming more and more comfortable with his teammates as the season went on.
Even with all the injuries that mounted upon the Pistons at the start of the season, the one unexpected attribute that Rose displayed, was the role of clutch performer. In the few close-game wins that the Pistons obtained this season, Rose was usually the common denominator in those wins.
He helped score late in their home win against the Indiana Pacers back on October 28th, 2019.
But his more memorable and endearing highlight of the season was in the team’s road win against the New Orleans Pelicans on December 29th, 2019. Rose went against a stout defender in Jrue Holiday. As time whined down on the game clock, he drove to the basket, spun around Holiday, and rose up for a turn-around jumper that he nailed right at the buzzer.
From that game on Rose became one of the players the Pistons knew they could usually count on to help come through in crunch-time moments.
It was a phenomenal year for Derrick Rose—even as the team’s aspirations for a playoff berth started to dwindle as the losses accumulated, Rose started to garnish attention and even generated some all-star nomination buzz as a sixth-man. Even though he was not selected for an all-star game, he ended the season with a strong average of 18.1ppg and 5.6 apg, respectively.
Even with trade rumors swirling around as the NBA trade deadline approached, Rose remained a Detroit Piston. His fate is somewhat similar to that of Blake Griffin; Rose too would like to be on a winning team and compete for a championship as he continues to age in this league. But with the Pistons clearly stating that they are in a rebuilding phase, he might find himself as a bargaining chip for future assets in the form of draft picks or younger, developable players, but nothing has been decided yet.
Either way, if this was Rose’s only season with the Pistons, it sure was a great one…
But just don’t call it a COMEBACK!