Derrick Rose was younger once more in Memphis, wanting virtually as athletic and bouncy as he did when he starred for the native crew, John Calipari’s Tigers. He was scoring together with his proper hand, and together with his left hand, within the closing minutes of Knicks-Grizzlies, and he was hounding Ja Morant so successfully that the child barreled into him for an offensive foul.
At 32, Rose wasn’t simply honoring his one-and-done faculty season, and the followers within the Memphis crowd carrying his faculty jersey. He was celebrating the Knicks’ first successful season since 2013, and the tenth anniversary of the evening he turned the youngest league MVP in historical past.
That was then for the Chicago Bulls, and this was now for the New York Knicks. Monday evening, Morant acquired himself ejected after his head coach, Taylor Jenkins, acquired himself ejected. The Grizzlies misplaced their cool as a result of the Knicks by no means misplaced their lead. Rose was absurdly good once more off the bench, scoring 25 factors in 27 minutes an evening after scoring 24, because the Knicks received for the twelfth time in 13 tries. His play below his all-time favourite coach, Tom Thibodeau, impressed a query associated to his first go-around with the Knicks, back when Phil Jackson was calling the photographs from above.
Why on the earth did Jackson power Rose to run the triangle?
A much bigger-picture pregame query was posed to another former Knick, Jeff Van Gundy, together with his former crew on such a dizzying roll, a query all however designed to make him spit out his drink.
Is it potential in a loopy COVID season that the Knicks might get a couple of fortunate bounces, go on a magical underdog run, and return to The Finals for the primary time since Van Gundy’s personal 1999 crew misplaced to the Spurs in 5?
“Oh, The Finals,” he mentioned with greater than a hint of incredulity. “If Durant, Harden, Irving, Embiid, Simmons, and Antetokounmpo are all in the identical constructing and crash into one another, then perhaps.
“But could they win a first-round series? Absolutely. And if they win a first-round series, are you not just one tweaked ankle away from having that next series be a little more even? Yeah, you are. If they win a first-round series, from where they started this season in December, it’s amazing, it really is.”
The amazing journey continued in Memphis, the place the Knicks beat the Grizzlies with their 3-point taking pictures, their protection on Morant, and their depth. Not sufficient has been product of that depth this yr, significantly Derrick Rose’s skill to nonetheless be Derrick Rose in spite of everything these years and all these knee accidents.
Down 17 at first of the fourth, the Grizzlies minimize their deficit to 5 earlier than Julius Randle sank a 3 with 3:58 to play and the shot clock expiring. Rose then did what Rose does. The Knicks at the moment are 2-0 on a six-game highway journey that closes with Denver, Phoenix, the Clippers and the Lakers — a stretch that might take a look at New York’s bid to remain away from the LeBron James Invitational, in any other case often called the play-in event.
At 37-28, the Knicks maintain the fourth seed within the East with seven video games to go. Who woulda thunk it?
“I like the mental toughness of our team,” Thibodeau mentioned.
He loves the psychological toughness of the final word Thibodeau participant, Rose, who adopted him from Chicago to Minnesota to Madison Square Garden. After he made 11 of 15 photographs towards the Grizzlies, Rose introduced up his age, and the truth that it isn’t straightforward at 32 to get into your resort room at 4 a.m. in the course of back-to-back video games on the highway.
But Thibodeau wanted him ultimately towards Memphis, after Alec Burks went down. And when Thibs calls, Rose solutions.
“The only thing I can think of is trust,” the purpose guard mentioned in explaining the long-term success of his partnership with the pinnacle coach. “He knows how hard I fought to get back. He knows I’m a gym rat. He knows I’m a student of the game. He knows where my heart is at, and it’s vice versa. I know how much work he puts into his craft. I know how he preps before the game, and you’re seeing the results of it.”
So there was Thibodeau getting a postgame bear hug from William “World Wide Wes” Wesley. There was Rose getting the identical from Wesley whereas he waited to do his MSG interview. “A lot of love here,” Rose defined on the air, and why not? The Knicks are taking part in unselfish, successful ball after 20 years of distress. What’s to not love?