Mama There Goes That Meme!” Ep. 10: Thorns in Rose’s Crown

IMAGE BY ANTHONY BAIN

“Mama there goes that Meme!” is a weekly HoopSpeak feature in which Beckley Mason and Ethan Sherwood Strauss, like curious extraterrestrials, probe, abuse, and ultimately learn from a popular media meme.

Beckley: Have you noticed there’s a former Number 1 overall pick who was drafted into his hometown central division team with a ball-dominant game, unreal speed in the open court, and a knack for miraculous finishes over and around his opponents who’s climbing the ranks of most divisive player in the NBA? No, not LeBron, time to move on, Cleveland is boring.

Derrick Rose can’t top The King or Mamba yet (he’ll need an absurd nickname to do that), but judging by our recent Daily Dime chat, trolling for Derrick Rose haters and defendants is like shooting fish in a barrel made of fish. Yet Rose doesn’t have any of the personality complications that underscore the Kobe and LeBron punditry– he didn’t even have a speaking role in his own commercial. Perhaps it’s the molten hot point guard debate that gives the Rose question so much gravity. The same way “I believe Kobe is a really good basketball player” must really mean “LeBron isn’t fit to carry Kobe’s gym bag,” any praise for or criticism of Rose seems to imply judgment on Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook (fine, Steph Curry too). It seems that Rose has become an unlikely lightning rod of NBA opinion-makers. Where do you stand on this? Remember, Ethan, you can ONLY love or hate him. Anything else speaks of rationality, which is boring, and will result in no one reading this post.

Ethan: I appreciate your charity in parenthetically including Curry. Though he just trails Derrick Rose in PER, wouldn’t ya know? For all the focus on the Heat as a theoretical team–as opposed to a currently great one–what about the Bulls? What the hell have they done to earn Rose’s MVP hype? These Bulls munch cud to the tune of 12-8. The lineup looks impeccable and some experts prefer them to the Heat, Celtics or Magic. But we haven’t seen success yet. It only feels imminent.

If the Bulls are missing some gears it’s possibly because Derrick Rose only knows one: Me Ball. Known fact: 123% of Bulls possessions involve Rose touching the rock into submission. He applies himself to the game, doesn’t let it come to him–which is an affront to particular point guard aficionados. One man watches the hyper-athletic one-man show and smiles in wonder. Another man favors Steve Nash’s understanding of pacing, nuance and facilitation. How you feel about point guards influences how you feel about Derrick. Like you alluded to, it has nothing to do with Rose. He’s a personality tabula rasa, a man who can’t be bothered to speak even when starring in–or is it staring in?–commercials.

So is Rose some new species, the more effective realization of Marbury’s vision? Or is he just one among a new breed of controlling givers? As I typed this, Stephen Curry’s ankle bent sideways, tying my heart into noodles.

Beckley: Full disclosure, I used to be an unabashed Rose hater. I saw him in person last year and Hinrich ran the point for half the game. Rose seemed to disappear and his sublime eruptions to the basket only amplified my displeasure at his apparent discomfort with taking over against the likes of Shaun Livingston. He’s kicked that habit this year, getting off 3.5 more shots per game, dropping two more dimes and upping his Usage 3.5%. He’s clearly put in the work this summer, dramatically improving his three point shot (shooting 3 more per game and making 36% instead of 26%) while also cutting down on long twos, which, as Jeff Van Gundy can tell you six times per telecast, is the worst shot in basketball.

Yet somehow, I’m not satisfied. Perhaps it’s that his mindbending athleticism will always make me feel as though there is more he could be doing. It’s like your theory on big man bias and Dwight Howard, only instead of height making it all seem easy, I irrationally think “jeez Derrick, why couldn’t you spin Tyreke Evans all the way around instead of only a 270* rotation?” Players like Nash or Chris Paul, who have the quicks but routinely outsmart opponents appear to be playing better because they consistently hit their athletic limits. But how does one reach a potential that seems infinite?

Is this fair? Of course not. It’s the same heartless demand we only place guys like LeBron James and Dwight Howard, players of an elite athleticism so dynamic that they appear machine like in their physical perfection. Their mental errors frustrate us like a computer glitch, “why won’t this damn thing work!?” Well Rose is 22, and certainly doin’ work of some kind. But is his improved aggression and shooting enough to place him in contention for league’s top PG? Is a positional comparison even worthwhile?

Ethan: Give in to your Derrick Rose hatred. Let it wash over your face. Stop rationalizing, apologizing, squeezing words of praise through pursed lips. Perhaps more is expected of Rose due to his athleticism. And perhaps you’d bleat a schoolgirl squeal if I tossed you a Russell Westbrook jersey. By the way, did you know what the sped-up pronunciation of Russell Westbrook is? It’s “Wusswawhawmph”

Me: “Here’s a free new jersey!”
You: “Wheeee! Wusswawhawmph!”

(Beckley flounces about, giggles maniacally, models the jersey in front of his full length mirror)

Westbrook is similar in stature and athleticism to Rose, but neither of us takes issue with RW. Why? He shoots three fewer shots per game, and gets to the line three more times. Derrick occasionally looks like Jamal Crawford, and though the imitation equals squandered athleticism, though that frustrates, mainly: It’s annoying to see any player comport himself in such a manner. Dribbling back and forth, crossing over, slinging a contested jumper…it’s an abomination! While I hate the undermined potential, the actual act undermines the sport itself. And if that’s not the case, explain why we like Wusswawhawmph and hate on D-Rose.

Beckley: Listen, I’m not crying over the Thunder jersey of a guy drafted in the 206 (interesting that Stern didn’t feel any compunction to help out a city with a great NBA tradition but dutifully supports New Orleans…grrrrr). But I think Russell’s been getting a free pass because he “came out of nowhere” as much as any #4 overall pick can. The internet-bred fetish for being first to get behind an underrated anything and the feel-good style of play from Hustle BestDunk blinded us to the fact the he too has been taking AWFUL shots and has coughed the ball up at a league worst rate. True, Westbrook is a superior defender and offensive rebounder, two traits that ooze humility and awesome teammateness. But he’s also had the luxury of playing in a franchise that invests in player development like few others and features Kevin Durant (he’s slightly better than Ben Gordon) as the marquee attraction.

I love that Westbrook impacts the game in so many ways (do opposing point guards not know he likes to go to the glass or is he just the most unblockoutable guy since Rodman?), but my aesthetic and tactical preference will always be for point guards like Chris Paul or…..wait… how did you get me talking about these other guys? I’ve been had! As predicted, this conversation has become as much about our biases as Rose’s actual play. You’re a slippery customer, Strauss.

I guess I’ve made my peace with Rose. He’s not my preference, but I can’t knock the hustle, the drive to become better and be a good teammate– even if he doesn’t always play how I wish he would (what I’m saying is: more bounce passes and fewer dunks, please!).

Now out with it, what’s really stoking this flame of hate in the craw of the heart of the root of your being?

Ethan: Keeping with my sneaky digressions: Forget it, I’m already over Rose-hate. It was more fun back when I thought him overrated. In my world there is no worse crime than overratedness, because that world is comprised of my condescending to conventional wisdom. I need to feel special. Pathetically, pointing out the flaws in our society’s basketball star system allows me such a pittance.

Derrick’s one-and-done Tourney run served as a catapult to greater pro fame. The hyped single year mercenaries are afforded a parental status push as they shed training wheels–in this case, it’s Rose pedals. Westbrook has to worm his way into a national consciousness that DRose owned since Kansas-Memphis.

How else could I explain our social memory of the thrilling 2009 Bulls-Celtics playoff series? Ask around–or if you’re lazy, hear around: This battle is described as an epic duel between Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose. D-Rose was fantastic in Game 1, but after that, he served as little more than a sinkhole through which vital possessions disappeared. Over a 44.7 minute average, Rose notched 19.7 points, 6.4 assists, 5 turnovers while providing defense that delivered Rondo to the hoop with a bus boy’s earnestness. If this was a duel, Derrick Rose was Alexander Hamilton.

I fixed on this Rose overhype, harped and obsessed, tried to get people to understand his unworthy crowning. The unfair, cosmic injustice was inexorable. Derrick’s implacable face garnished endless commercials, despite pedestrian second year production.  In my darkest moments, I wasn’t sure whether to wring hands over Kobe’s lofty status or Rose’s. Those were bleak weeks.

Today, Derrick’s improving, growing, bending the game to his will. So either I can take solace in his ability to become what people thought he was, or resent him for skipping steps. I think, it’s high time to get on the Rose bandwagon. In the spirit of how I made no use of a college history degree, I’ll say, “Fast Don’t Lie,” and forget the past.

@SherwoodStrauss/Ethanstra@gmail.com

@BeckleyMason/Beckleym@gmail.com

Related posts:

  1. “Mama There Goes That Meme!” Ep. 9: There Can Be Only ONE!
  2. “Mama There Goes That Meme!” Ep. 3: B-A-N-A-N-A-S!
  3. “Mama There Goes That Meme!” Ep. 6: Durant is MVP Already
  4. “Mama There Goes That Meme!” Ep. 5: The Kobe-Jordan Conversation
  5. “Mama There Goes That Meme!” Ep. 7: Contraction Traction, What’s Your Action?

Trackbacks

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