The deeper the Bulls advance in these playoffs, the more questions are asked about Derrick Rose’s absence. Rose was “medically cleared” to play way back at the beginning of March, but has yet to suit up for the Bulls. He simply says that his body doesn’t feel ready to play.
Predictably, the fake toughs that constitute 90% of Twitter are up in arms about what a pussy Rose is, and are writing about why they hate him. Having never torn my ACL and not knowing what it feels like inside of Rose’s body or his head, I offer no opinion except to say that it is nobody else’s responsibility to do what is best for Derrick Rose except for Derrick Rose, and that’s the crux of the issue.
Tom Ziller wrote a wonderful post yesterday about the extreme mishandling of injures by the Bulls medical staff. Luol Deng and Omer Asik both had incredibly serious injuries incredibly misdiagnosed by the Bulls team doctor, resulting in them becoming even more incredibly injured. The Bulls are also coached by the sadistic Tom Thibodeau who doesn’t hesitate to run his players into the ground, health be damned.
Ziller makes the obvious connection and asks the obvious questions:
And after all of that, you expect Rose to march off into battle? You expect Derrick Rose to trust what has appeared under the John Paxson regime to become one of the least trustworthy and most pushy NBA franchises when it comes to injury? You expect him to trust a coach in Tom Thibodeau who repeatedly runs his players into the ground by heaping huge minutes on them?
Here’s the less obvious question: isn’t this more proof that Royce White is right?
Royce White has undergone a similar negative transformation in the public eye to what Derrick Rose is currently experiencing. Initially hailed for his courage in confronting his mental health problems publicly, the longer White refused to play for the Rockets and instead go on bizarre Twitter diatribes, the more nasty things have been said about him. He is using his problems as an excuse not to ride a bus in the D-League. He is using his problems as an excuse to be lazy. He is selfish. He’s afraid he isn’t good enough for the NBA. And yes, that he is a pussy.
But what White was saying publicly about mental health, Rose is saying privately about physical health: the team being in control of a player’s health is a fundamentally unsafe situation. When you go to your doctor you presume they have your best interest at heart, but athletes have no such luck because their doctor is employed by the team. Furthermore, while players often do get independent second opinions, those second opinions are not as important as the first opinion.
With White, this situation came to a head with regards to choosing a psychiatrist. Both the Rockets and White agree that he should be seeing a psychiatrist, but the Rockets want him to see a psychiatrist they have chosen. Furthermore, they want him to see a psychiatrist with the understanding that the ultimate decision on whether White is “fit” to play belongs to general manager Daryl Morey. Instead, White wants his own psychiatrist to have the authority to declare that he is not fit to play.
Oftentimes, even regarding health, the player and team incentives align. Both want players to stay healthy, and both want players to recover from injuries as fast as possible. Where interests diverge is in thinking about the future. Derrick Rose wants to get back to the court as soon as possible, but he also doesn’t want to have knee problems for the rest of his life. Derrick Rose wants to get back on the court as soon as possible, but he also doesn’t want to jeopardize his ability to earn a second max contract (that may or may not be with the Chicago Bulls). The Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets are businesses built to win now, damn the potential long-term consequences.
The only surprising thing is that its taken so long for this issue to be realized. This issue—employers more concerned with the health of the bottom line than the health of their employees—is the story of the history of the labor movement, the main reason unions were formed in the first place. Why did we ever think basketball was any different?