Derrick Rose Knicks
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The stumbling New York Knicks miss Derrick Rose and his leadership.

For all the problems the New York Knicks have faced this season, Derrick Rose has remained the constant.

Even as he’s sat since mid-December ankle surgery, the former MVP and No. 1 pick’s leadership has held steady. Kemba Walker may be the New Yorker who came home this season, but the Knicks are still Derrick Rose’s team.

And considering New York has continued to struggle in his absence, going 11-12 since his last appearance, it’s clear how much a Derrick Rose return will mean to the Knicks.

Derrick Rose is a true leader

Just look at how well Rose performed when he returned to New York last season. Sure, he averaged 14.9 points and was deadly from three in 35 games, and was even a Sixth Man of the Year finalist, but Derrick Rose was more valuable than most fans realize.

In that short stretch with the New York Knicks, Rose posted a 1.0 VORP. As we’ve mentioned several times, this is the basketball equivalent of WAR in baseball. If we convert to WAR, Rose posted a mark of 2.7. In just 35 games. And at 32 years old after having several knee surgeries.

Not to mention, the young Knicks went 30-17 after bringing Rose aboard last season. Even as he missed almost a month battling COVID-19, the team held steady and battled to the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference.

His leadership combined with Tom Thibodeau’s coaching simply made that much of a difference.

The Knicks miss Derrick Rose

Fast forward to this season, and the Knicks are about where they were this time last year: under .500 and seeming so close, yet so far.

The difference is that this time around, it’s all the more frustrating. Instead of carrying the team and looking like an MVP, Julius Randle has regressed to the point where we’ve speculated if he’s a trade chip or not. Kemba Walker has been a full-blown bust, proving to be a good teammate and not so much a good leader in New York. Evan Fournier’s had flashes, but not even the Frenchman is immune to being streaky.

Thank god for RJ Barrett’s growing confidence, or else the Knicks might have been lottery-bound long ago.

There’s a clear lack of on-court leadership and has been all year, even when Derrick Rose was healthy. Now that he’s set to return, maybe New York will finally show some life.

Final thoughts

As to when Rose will be back, it’s looking like after the All-Star Break. He gave that target when he recently spoke with local media.

Under perfect circumstances, that puts Derrick Rose in uniform at home against the Miami Heat on February 25. Realistically, we’ll say he returns on March 2 when the Knicks visit the Philadelphia 76ers.

New York is 24-28, 12th in the Eastern Conference, and 1.5 games out of the play-in tournament. Regardless of when Rose comes back, there’s time to get it together and go on a hot streak into the postseason.

Now, let’s see if the Derrick Rose effect can carry the Knicks for another stretch run.

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.