derrick rose
Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Rose is still the unquestioned leader of the New York Knicks.

The New York Knicks should be thankful to have Derrick Rose back for a second stint, and so should their fans.

It was a rough week for the Knickerbockers, who struggled with both defense and shooting the three in not one, not two, but three bad losses. The Toronto Raptors smothered them with man-to-man defense, the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers just outplayed them.

But in the middle of that was a great comeback win over the Milwaukee Bucks, a win in which Derrick Rose showed he’s still one of the best leaders in the league.

Derrick Rose played well all week

Regardless of if he’s being a scoring boost off the bench or starting while Kemba Walker rests on a back-to-back, Derrick Rose knows his role. He understands that the New York Knicks need him to mentor young players like Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin and score 10-15 off the bench otherwise.

He is no longer the star point guard who won the MVP trophy in just his third NBA season, and that’s okay.

Now, consider Rose only started one of the Knicks’ games this past week, Sunday’s 126-109 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Walker was resting since the team plays Philadelphia Monday, thus Rose drew the start and finished with 17 points on 14 shots and five assists.

For the week, even as his New York Knicks struggled, Derrick Rose stayed in the zone.


Derrick Rose is the leader of the New York Knicks

But backtracking, let’s talk about the Milwaukee Bucks game, Friday’s big win that served as the lone bright spot this week. Yes, RJ Barrett continued playing well and Julius Randle is slowly looking more like himself again, but this game in particular was special.

Let’s set the scene. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, just a few months after the city’s beloved Bucks have won an NBA championship. Two-time MVP and reigning Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is off to another great start. However, for this game, he will be without the Shirley to his Laverne, the Potsie Weber to his Richie Cunningham, Khris Middleton.

Anyway, enough jokes about Milwaukee-based TV shows. Middleton’s absence and Jrue Holiday’s well-timed return from injury meant the Knicks had a shot at making noise and…they trailed 38-19 after one quarter.

Enter Derrick Rose, who led a second-quarter rally and had eight points of his own in it. New York won the game 113-98.

Kemba Walker, who drew the start, played 15 minutes and scored five points on 2 of 8 shooting, and was a -10 for the game.

Rose, on the other hand, scored 23 in 30 minutes off the bench, and added eight rebounds and four dimes to post a +31.

Kemba Walker is the New Yorker and favorite son, but the New York Knicks are Derrick Rose’s team.


Derrick Rose never stops

The grand point in all of this is that even when his team is struggling, the Derrick Rose motor never stops. He goes out and plays like the game is on the line regardless of what the scoreboard says.

Just look at how well he played for the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves before coming back to New York. Those weren’t dominant teams by any stretch, and yet he went out there with infectious energy. And this is from a player whose career was supposedly derailed by multiple knee surgeries!

If this is the Derrick Rose energy the New York Knicks signed to a new three-year deal, they’ll almost certainly get better at closing games.

Looking ahead

The New York Knicks will need Rose a lot this week. It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire with a visit to the Sixers on Monday. Then, the same Bucks come to MSG looking for revenge on Wednesday before New York visits the feisty Charlotte Hornets on Friday.

The Knicks need to simply play better basketball on both ends of the court. Whether Derrick Rose starts or comes off the bench, he needs to keep leading by example the way he has since he arrived back in New York last year.

Now, his teammates just need to follow.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.