Derrick Rose is not what he was, doesn't seem to have the legs or the speed he had five years ago, when he was one of the most thrilling young players in basketball and the MVP of his league. Rose has averaged half-a-season of games the last four seasons he's played, on top of missing an entire season, and he missed 16 more games this season for the Bulls, averaging just 31 minutes a game when he did play. The Bulls, then, aren't trading him to the Knicks because they still think Rose's best days are ahead of him. Fair point, about this particular 27 year-old point guard.
You start any evaluation of Rose now being a Knick this way, after knee surgery and an ankle injury and even an orbital fracture once: If he stays healthy. If there are no further issues with his surgical knee. If the Knicks can keep him on the court more than the Bulls have across the past five years, when Rose played 39 games for Chicago, then missed a season, and then played 10 and then 51 and finally 66.
But here's one more if: If you are Phil Jackson, this is a deal you have to make, that you make before the people running the Bulls change their minds. Because even playing at the level Rose did this past season for the Bulls -- 16.4 points per game and 4.7 assists -- he is still the most talented point guard the Knicks have had since Clyde Frazier. There have been other guys to play the position for the Knicks, young and old, in all the years since Clyde. Not one of them ever had as much game as Rose had when he was MVP.
This is a point guard, in what is still so much a point guard league, that you have to get if you have the chance, especially if the asking price is Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon. If you absolutely have to, you throw in a couple of retired jerseys if that's what it takes to make this work, even if it's just for a year, and even if Rose does end up breaking down again.
One year. Twenty-one million. You put Rose with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis and ask him to just give you what he gave the Bulls during the 2015-16 season. If he does break down, you spend the money on somebody else next year. Jackson, old Bull, finally shows you he is more than old bull as a basketball executive. If this works, this becomes one of the best and most important trades in Knicks history.
Here is what John Calipari, who coached Rose at Memphis, said on Wednesday when he got the news:
"I just got off the phone with the kid, and here's the deal. He loved Chicago, it's where he grew up, he will always think of himself as a hometown kid. He loved his time there. Loved being a Bull. But he is so excited about this next phase, I can't properly describe it to you.
"And let me explain something to you: He still wants to be the best point guard, and thinks he can be the best point guard. Everybody knows about the injuries. But what they don't know is that this kid keeps working his butt off to get back. And will continue to work his butt off. Don't tell him he can't get back to where he was, because he believes he can get back to where he was. That is what the kid is chasing. And guess what? Even if he's a little bit below that? In New York? Are you kidding me?
"You know what I just told him on the phone? 'I need tickets, you got me?' He laughed and said, 'I got you, Coach.' I told him, 'Don't make me buy season tickets, because I will if I have to.' Because I am going to be at Knicks games this season, rooting for Derrick. He is one of the great people I have ever coached and one of the great teammates."
I stop Cal there and say, "Can he get back to being the player he was?"
Calipari says, "Yes. Straight up. And he is driven to get back there."
Rose's old Memphis coach pauses and says, "You know what the Knicks will be stunned at? How driven he is. They will be amazed at how disciplined he is. You know what they're going to be telling him? 'Get out of the gym.' I don't care what they care what they had to give up to get him. The only thing that matters is that they got him."
Calipari laughs then and says, "Just to cover my bases I'm reaching out to Spike for the seat next to him."
Porzingis fell into Jackson's lap at the last NBA draft, and the Knicks grabbed him with the fourth pick, and clearly showed, even with inconsistency and fatigue, that he is an ascendant young star. You know what you are getting with Carmelo Anthony, and know that Anthony needs help. He got some from Porzingis. He gets more with Rose.
If he is healthy. If they can keep him on the court. If at the age of 27 he can play at the high place he did when he was much younger than that, when he came straight to the league after one year at Memphis and the Bulls lucked into the No. 1 pick in the draft against all odds, and the kid played like a streak of light where Michael once played.
But what Rose does, if the Knicks can keep him on the court and then keep him for a long time, is make them a team to watch again. It makes them relevant again. They continue to call Madison Square Garden the "mecca," but for much too long it has been a mecca of losing basketball and dysfunctional management. Since Jeff Van Gundy stopped coaching the team, the Knicks have won one playoff series in the past 16 years. One. They have won one Atlantic Division title. They have won of the worst records in their league in that time. Even when Jackson became the latest Chief Operating Savior, the Knicks went 17-65 his first year on the job. They were so bad that you wanted to throw them a parade through the Canyon of Heroes when they lost 50 games this past season.
Now they get themselves Derrick Rose. They put Rose with Anthony and Porzingis. Once, back in the '90s, we always thought that the baseball season in New York didn't start until the Knicks stopped playing. It is different with this trade. Knicks fans feel as if the basketball season started today.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for Sports on Earth and the New York Daily News. Read his full bio here. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLupica.