One of the great “what-ifs” in NBA history is Derrick Rose. The star guard had a glorious three-year run to start his career with the Chicago Bulls, winning the NBA Rookie of the Year Award in 2008-09 before becoming the youngest player ever (22) to win league MVP. However, a torn ACL in 2012 was the first of a string of injuries that brought D-Rose down from an MVP-caliber superstar to a solid yet unspectacular role player.
Joakim Noah is one of the few players who played alongside Rose before and after the career-defining injury. Noah discussed how special of a player D-Rose was — and still is — on a recent episode of Knuckleheads with Quentin Richardson & Darius Miles.
Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah helped the Chicago Bulls become title contenders
The Michael Jordan-led Bulls dynasty was a distant memory by the time Rose and Noah were in town. Following Chicago’s sixth and final championship in 1998, the franchise missed the playoffs each of the next six seasons. However, the new core wasn’t too far away.
Noah arrived in the Windy City first, taken ninth overall out of Florida in the 2007 NBA Draft. The following year, the 33-49 Bulls overcame low lottery odds to win the first overall pick, taking the hometown guard Rose. The star point guard spent one year at Memphis before coming to the NBA, nearly winning the National Championship.
Everything changed for Chicago once Tom Thibodeau took over as head coach in 2010-11. The Bulls went 62-20 and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals while Rose won the MVP. The third-year guard averaged 25.0 points and 7.7 assists while showcasing an amazing display of athleticism. On the other side, Noah’s value was on the defensive end. The 6-foot-11 center was All-Defensive Second Team while still averaging 11.7 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game.
Although they never brought Chicago its seventh title, the pair helped guide the Bulls to the playoffs in all but one year together. Since they left in 2016, the franchise has just one playoff appearance.
Noah has never seen a player like Rose was before the injury
On the Knuckleheads Podcast, Noah talked about what it was like playing with Rose and how the injury changed everything.
“They had nothing for him,” Noah said. “There was nothing like him. The athleticism, he could shoot it, and then he really had the city behind him. The energy in that building at that time, it was so special.”
But after Rose’s injury in the first round of the 2012 Eastern Conference Playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers, a lot of the energy was zapped.
“One of those moments when I heard he tore his ACL, I didn’t even think much of it when it happened, Noah said. “I thought, ‘OK, he’ll miss a couple of games and he’ll be back.’ But, it was depressing as hell.”
“It was definitely tough. You look back at that time, we were the number one team in the NBA. We had the best record, playoffs start, Game 1, we are on a mission. We just lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to Miami. We got Rip [Hamilton] now, and we’re like, ‘This is the year. This is the year we’re getting s***.’ Then, he tore his ACL, and I think everyone kind of remembers where they were, what they were doing when that s*** happened.”Joakim Noah
Following the injury, Rose missed the entirety of the following season and all but 10 games the year after that. He, along with Noah, parted ways with the Bulls after the 2015-16 season.
Noah believes Rose still has the killer instinct of old
Now 32, Rose is a decade removed from his time as MVP of the league. But slowly, fans have seen a resurgence of the former first overall pick.
Rose has played for four different teams after Chicago but has found a home with the New York Knicks. He averaged just under 15 points and finished third in NBA Sixth Man of the Year voting. This offseason, New York rewarded Rose with a three-year, $43.5 million deal, his longest multiyear contract since his rookie max extension in 2012.
As someone who played with Rose for multiple years, Jo knows the former MVP has a lot left to offer.
“Now he’s able to express himself a whole other way,” Noah said. “Chill, laid back, won’t talk much, but he’ll still be like, ‘I’m the best motherf***** out here.’ Supreme confidence, quiet, humble with it. I love him to this day.”
While we may never see the MVP-level Rose again, his former running mate and friend believes he is still a force to be reckoned with.