For as long as Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose has been in the NBA, those words have been used to describe his game. Sadly, as synonymous as those words have become with Rose's name, another, less desirable word has joined the list.
Rose hasn't seen the court much since winning NBA MVP honors in 2011.
A torn ACL during the first round of the 2012 playoffs sidelined the Chicago native for all of the 2012-13 season. Then, one month into the 2013-14 campaign, he tore the meniscus in his right knee, another season-ending surgery.
Both injuries occurred on non-contact plays.
This year? Ankle and hamstring injuries have limited Rose to just four games, out of 11 the Bulls have played so far. And with each successive injury, one big question keeps being asked, for which nobody seems to have an answer.
Why does Derrick Rose keep getting hurt?
Is he injury prone? Too fragile? Perhaps he never fully recovered from his original injury?
There's no question that Rose is an elite athlete. Furthermore, he's had access to the best training facilities and performance coaches throughout his collegiate and professional career.
Alan Stein, a leading basketball performance coach and owner of Stronger Team, wonders if Rose's high school training—or lack thereof—is to blame. He says, "This is 100 percent my opinion and speculation, but I assume D-Rose wasn't introduced to a proper, consistent training program until college. He probably accumulated a ton of overuse issues, dysfunctions and muscular imbalances from ages 5 to 18."
Failing to address any potential strength imbalances early in his pro career may have increased Rose's susceptibility to injury. Moreover, the pressure for Rose to complete his rehab and return to the Bulls' lineup in a timely manner may have been even more damaging to his long-term health.
Dr. Marcus Elliott, founder and director of Peak Performance Project (P3), suggests that a more accurate assessment of Rose's post-injury movement patterns would have identified other potentially problematic areas for which he would be at risk for injury. "Instead of the chatter about [Rose] maybe jumping a couple inches higher, we would know exactly how he has or hasn't changed," said Elliott, who trains current NBA players and top draft prospects at his facility in Santa Barbara, California. "We'd be able to answer the important questions like 'does he still move like he did when he was the world's best baller at 23 years old,' or 'does he have significant compensations in place that may compromise other structures?'"
Another leading basketball trainer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, wondered if the rehab process took a mental toll on Rose, saying, "If you're a guy who is that dominant that early, then all of a sudden has to deal with that rash of injuries, that's tough to come back from, I don't care who you are. He just lacks confidence. He's not a Kobe Bryant. He's not a strong personality type, he's not an alpha male. I don't think he ever fully recovered and he's never been the same since."
Rose's ability to attack the rim is what makes him so special. However, several experts who spoke with STACK wondered if his body simply cannot hold up to his explosive style of play.
Basketball trainer Koran Godwin says, "His relentless attack and athleticism are the reasons we marveled at his game, but after his recent injuries, he's going to have to change the way he plays the game of basketball." According to Godwin, for Rose to be effective, he must learn to use his athleticism to get to the mid-range area of the floor and knock down 15-foot jump shots. "This, along with a patented floater, will extend his career and hopefully lessen the risk of injury," Godwin says.
There may not be a single definitive approach to keeping Rose healthy moving forward. And that's the biggest issue he faces, determining whether Rose will become one of the greatest point guards of all time.
Michael Singer of CSN Chicago says, "He's so quick that I don't know if his body can necessarily keep up with the angles and the cuts and the agility that his moves mandate. I think that's a serious problem and one that nobody really has a good answer to."
Perhaps Rose is dealing with the consequences of bad training habits he developed when he was younger. In a 2011 interview with STACK, he said, "From high school, college and to now, I really haven't been lifting weights. That hasn't been a big thing for me."
Maybe a lack of confidence at times on the court has led to recurring injuries. Maybe his timidity with the media has created a narrative he can no longer control. Are his injuries chronic or the result of a body that can't keep up with the explosive pace at which he pushes it. None of that matters now. The torn ACL and meniscus have already happened. To move forward, Rose might have to scale things back.
Zac Clark contributed reporting to this story
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