By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) After taking his oath of office in 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood atop Capitol Hill in D.C. and famously declared to his fellow Americans that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
But you know, he never met Derrick Rose.
At least, that's what Rose's critics and fans might tell you today, considering how many of them seem to find reason to fear just about everything involving the Chicago Bulls' electrifying but creaky superstar.
They're fearful about Rose's knees when he doesn't play basketball. And they're fearful for his knees when he does. When Rose sits out playoff games, they're fearful that he's a selfish player. And when he goes all-out in exhibitions, they're fearful that he's a reckless one. After scoring only three points during USA Basketball's 30-point blowout of Slovenia on Tuesday, I've even seen them fear that Rose just isn't good any longer.
For an athlete who's spent his entire life striking fear in the hearts of opponents, it's ironic to now see so many people so fearful for Rose. Perhaps you're one of them. If so, it's understandable to fret about the health of a guy who's played only 49 NBA games in three seasons.
But it's pointless to live in fear of it.
On Monday, Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Rose's health: "I asked him today, and he said, 'I feel great. He did everything. He's full go. I think there's a part of him that's like: 'Quit asking me how I feel. I'm good.' So I'm not going to ask him anymore."
That's probably sage advice for anyone invested in Rose's career – emotionally or otherwise. Fans simply can't continue to perpetuate this culture of fear that's developed around whatever it is that Rose does – or doesn't – do on the basketball court. Instead, all of us need to let the guy just be himself on the basketball court, whatever that means for the Bulls' star today and into the future.
On Tuesday, Rose came off the bench for Team USA as Kyrie Irving started at point guard in its final tune-up game leading into the FIBA World Cup. Krzyzewski has said that he's toying with the idea of alternating Rose and Irving as starters throughout the tournament, and such protective measures may be the new normal for Rose.
After two knee surgeries, his body will never be quite the same as it once was, but it is also now what it is. Going forward in his career, Rose might need to take the occasional night off. He'll surely have to battle through aches and pains more often than in the past, and he may have to cut back on his minutes.
But that doesn't mean that he'll need to cut back on his game too, as Rose – just like Bulls fans – also can't live in a world where he's constantly in fear of what's coming next. Fact is, whatever is going to come next for him will, regardless.
Just ask Braxton Miller about that. Last week, Ohio State's star quarterback saw his season come to a premature end when he made a simple pass during practice and felt his surgically repaired shoulder pop.
There was likely nothing that Miller could have done to avoid the injury. He had already rehabbed. He wasn't hit. And he didn't make some foolishly daring move on the field. He didn't do anything out of the ordinary.
The injury just happened. That's part of sports. Injuries can happen in games and can happen in practice. They can happen on risky plays and they can happen on routine ones. As Miller just proved, they really can happen at any time, so there's no sense in playing – or living – in fear of them.
However, two weeks ago, Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report did his part to stoke fears about Rose's latest return when he wrote this:
A seriously compromised USA Basketball National Team, combined with Derrick Rose playing and talking as if he never sustained an injury in his life, should make anyone hoping to see Rose return to his MVP form next season nervous.
Why? Because for all of Rose's talk about having learned that he must dial back his instinct to be in attack mode every second he's on the floor, NBA executives watching him perform with the national team say they have seen little change in his approach.
But is "attack mode" really what caused Rose to be hurt in the first place? Neither of his knee injuries happened because of reckless abandon or over-aggressiveness on the court. His torn left ACL in April 2012 came on a jump stop about 10 feet from the hoop. His right medial meniscus tear in November 2013 came on a routine backcut. There was likely nothing that Rose could have done to avoid blowing out his knees.
They might some day blow out again. We don't know. I just know that Rose can't afford to play basketball fearing that they will. He needs to play in the way that feels natural to him on the court.
And perhaps rest on the sidelines from time to time.
Yet doubters remain. After Rose sat out last week's exhibition game against the Dominican Republic in New York with "general body soreness," the Chicago Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom argued that, "Rose … shouldn't be playing for USA Basketball in this silly world tournament because there's no need to rush the soreness for a team that doesn't matter."
That's the pesky culture of fear piping up again. Rose can't stop playing simply because he might get hurt again. If that's going to be the mindset, then he might as well stop practicing, too.
So instead of relentlessly wringing our hands about Rose's knees, what we need to do is just let the guy play how he wants as much as he can and start treating our fear exactly like what FDR might have said it is.
A four-letter word.
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