When Derrick Rose closes his eyes every night, his thoughts likely revolve around the same premise, the same hopes for when his body rises the next morning.
That after the initial grogginess shakes itself off illustrated by the blurred vision all humans have temporarily, Rose believes this will be the day where the side effects from the broken orbital bone fracture he suffered on day one of training camp will finally dissipate.
That Rose won’t be seeing double anymore and he can finally begin another restart of the same journey he’s been on in this odyssey in his hometown. Until then, adjusting to his new reality, the one slightly obscured but not fully protected from by his clear mask.
Never one to offer excuses or even acknowledge limitations, Rose is finally bowing down to a new-found reality that has an unknown ending, not dissimilar to dealing with knee surgeries that has cruelly sapped him of some explosiveness.
Considering the next jumper he makes this year will be the first, he’s gone full facilitator mode, especially after the potential game-winning jumper in regulation against Detroit went wide left—all the way left.
“It’s no point in shooting when you can’t see,” said Rose of his 35.2 shooting percentage, a clear result of the double vision he’s suffering from.
Averaging 5.5 assists per game isn’t going to put anyone in the mind of Steve Nash or John Stockton, but he’s creating opportunities for his teammates they have yet to fully capitalize on.
During one stretch, he set up teammates for four straight open, quality looks at shots up close or beyond the 3-point arc. Only one of them was converted during his season-high eight-assist performance that could’ve been 12, easily.
Rose’s history in dealing with adversity has robbed him of getting any type of praise he likely deserves from even playing at half-sight, the “hero” narratives that are often thrown about so liberally.
But basketball’s Stevie Wonder is playing in part because he wants to get acclimated to Fred Hoiberg’s system, one that gets him the type of shots a man with two good knees and at worst, two good eyes would feast on.
One of the best finishers at the rim, no longer resorting to taking a third of his shots from 20 feet or more, missing shots that backup Aaron Brooks is making with much more efficiency sounds like an aberration.
“I love them. I love them. I love them,” Rose said. “It’s like he’s forcing me to the way I naturally play, where I’m running downhill, I’m getting to the paint. I’m able to push the ball, a one-man fast break if I want to.”
Rose is literally playing basketball off muscle memory, while one can say he’s shooting sight unseen.
“Set shots are one thing but when you’re moving, it’s kind of hard,” Rose said. “I’m gonna figure out my floaters but I’m happy to be back moving, happy to be back with my teammates.”
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So when he sees Nikola Mirotic hesitating on open 3-point attempts, someone not appreciating two good eyes and the skill to shoot with accuracy, he gets a little annoyed—the same annoyance those may have had with him not driving to the basket and settling for long jumpers.
“I’m on Niko pump faking. There’s no reason for you to pump fake when you’re one of the best shooters at your position,” Rose said. “With the green light that he has. The more we play, the more we get used to taking those shots, everybody will get used to playing this way.”
The scintillating drives to the rim, the ones that came more due to guile than blinding speed since his most recent meniscus surgery, have been put on hold. Why? Because he can’t see the help defense unless it’s directly in front of him.
“At all. It’s reading the play,” Rose said. “Every single play I’m trying to read it off the strength of not being able to see. So how they’re playing me when I drive to the hole, I look at the film after I get done playing off the strength of one eye.”
Every time he goes through the film, he notices an extra defender who wasn’t there in real time. It’s a bit alarming but more than anything, he takes it as a point of encouragement.
“I want to get to the next gear, where it’s kinda like FIBA Basketball where I’m always pushing and got my guys run with me,” Rose said. “I’m trying to get in shape.”
And as his shot attempts decreases, he attempts to shed some light on his reality, whether we believe it or not.
“I want to play this way," he said. "This league forced me to become a scorer.”