Derrick Rose has never been afraid to speak his mind. And even though the Chicago Bulls superstar is still two years away from hitting the open market as an unrestricted free agent, he couldn’t help but mention it at his team’s media day earlier this week.
Asked if the ongoing civil suit against him loomed as a distraction with the season fast approaching, Rose eventually brought up free agency – completely unprompted. Here’s the three-time All-Star, courtesy of CSN Chicago’s Vincent Goodwill.
“This whole summer I had tunnel vision. My mindset was just making sure that I was working out every day, and spending as much time as possible with my son,” Rose said. “And focusing on those two things. Making sure my family is financially stable, as far as seeing all the money that they’re passing out in this league. Just telling the truth. Just knowing that my day will be coming up soon, and it’s not for me. It’s for P.J. (his son) and his future, so that’s what I’m thinking about now.’’
Rose later specified that he was referencing a payday from the Bulls. “Here, here, it’s here,” he said.
This isn’t the first time the Windy City native has ruffled feathers by appealing to a future with his young son in mind. After missing four of Chicago’s previous five contests with an ankle sprain last November, Rose said sitting out of games was about his long-term, post-playing health prospects as opposed to the short-term goal of being fresh for the season’s remainder, specifically citing potential soreness at his son’s graduation as means for that approach.
Those comments left a bad taste in the mouths of some Bulls fans, and these latest ones will surely do the same. Rose, by the way, signed a five-year, $94 million contract extension that kicked in for the 2011-12 season, the latter two years of which will net him approximately $41.4 million. Barring an altogether surprising return to his past MVP form, however, it seems highly unlikely he’ll earn a similar average salary as a free agent – regardless of the cap approaching $110 million when that time finally comes.
Rose’s injuries and subsequent play has created a shift for Chicago, one made more palatable by the emergence of Jimmy Butler as something close to a viable go-to offensive option. The Bulls’ star wing signed his own multi-year mega-deal early in the summer, ensuring he’d be a fixture of the organization’s plans going forward.
That role comes with expectations and responsibilities, one of which is helping Chicago navigate through uncertain waters of the future. Butler is the only member of the Bulls’ core group of players signed through 2017-18. Joakim Noah will be a free agent in July; Pau Gasol is sure to decline his player option for 2015-16 and seek a pay increase; the contracts of Rose and Taj Gibson expire after next season; and Nikola Mirotic will face restricted free agency in the summer of 2017.
Chicago’s merits as a free agent destination should mostly speak for themselves. As the only player entrenched with the Bulls for the distant future, though, it’s Butler’s job to make his team as alluring as possible to incumbent free agents and potential targets – through his play on the floor and his actions off of it.
Was the 25-year-old’s reaction to Rose’s remarks on free agency an example of him owning that role? You be the judge.
Rose and Butler have consistently downplayed reports of strife between them, and the former even alluded to the media’s racial bias as means behind those rumors on Monday. But his point guard’s surprising comments nevertheless presented a golden opportunity for Butler to defend him, and the 2015 All-Star first-timer opted for jocularity instead.
Squinting to read the subtext of interviews is usually a pointless proposition in the NBA. Players don’t read from a script, and have more important things to concern themselves with than pin-point diction, seamless syntax, and flawless analogies. There isn’t always fire where there’s smoke.
Still, context certainly makes it easy to wonder why Butler didn’t throw full support behind Rose here.
Players have every incentive to back one another in contract negotiations, especially now as the specter of a lockout in 2017 hovers over the league. On the other hand, Butler’s potential frustration gleaned from Rose looking so far ahead – with only he and his family in sight, remember – is easy to understand. The 2015-16 season is absolutely crucial for the Bulls, one that won’t only decide if John Paxson and Gar Forman keep this core together, but also looms large to the development of rookie coach Fred Hoiberg.
Can Chicago challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers for Eastern Conference supremacy if its players aren’t focused solely on achieving that goal? That’s doubtful, and perhaps it’s also what Butler was asking himself while responding to Rose’s free agency foresight.
[Via CSN Chicago]