ATLANTA – There’s a chance Derrick Rose will be voted as a starter to the All-Star game, though he’d need to make up a half-million votes on Kyrie Irving – two rungs ahead of him in second place among East backcourt candidates – by the end of the day Monday, when voting concludes.
There’s a chance Eastern Conference coaches will vote Rose as an All-Star reserve, though he’s got two strikes against him: He’s come off the bench for all but three games this season and the Pistons, at 16-27, aren’t currently among the playoff field – typically a near-necessary ingredient to win the coaches’ vote.
But in the event Rose’s remarkable season goes unrewarded by both categories of voters, the commissioner’s office should do the right thing and add Rose to the All-Star game, regardless.
Nobody this side of LeBron James more fully embodies the essence of All-Star aura than Rose. When the Pistons played in Mexico City, only Luka Doncic rivaled Rose for fan adoration. When they were in Los Angeles, it was Rose that had the A- and B-list celebrities craning their necks. When they visited Chicago twice, the “M-V-P, M-V-P!” chants shook the United Center as surely as they did in his Bulls heyday.
And that’s where this year’s All-Star game will be played. Playing this game without Derrick Rose would be like playing the 1992 All-Star game without Magic Johnson.
“Derrick Rose is an All-Star,” Dwane Casey said in a passionate pitch for him after his latest brilliant outing, a 27-point, nine-assist masterpiece in Saturday’s 136-103 smashing of Atlanta. “He’s getting where he wants to go with the ball. He’s picking double teams apart. I’m going to tell everybody – he should be an All-Star.”
In his last two games, Rose is 22 of 25 on shots inside the 3-point arc. He’s toyed with defenses stacked to stop him. If he’s not as explosive as the Chicago native who took the NBA by storm as the No. 1 pick in 2008 after a freshman season that ended in the NCAA title game at Memphis, it’s only because that Derrick Rose was as explosive as anyone who ever laced up sneakers – and he’s a few catastrophic knee injuries removed from those days.
For all of the trauma his lower body has endured over 10 NBA seasons, he’s still in a rarefied percentile of rim-attacking point guards. Rose leads the Pistons in scoring at 18.3 points a game despite a minutes cap; he’s playing 26 minutes a game. His per-36 minutes scoring average of 25.6 wedges him between two likely All-Stars, Donovan Mitchell and Russell Westbrook.
“I told him the other day, he’s looking like his MVP season,” Markieff Morris said after Rose’s night in Atlanta. “He’s quick, he’s making great decisions on the ball, he can play either off the bench or starter. He’s scoring at a high level. He’s leading this team.”
Rose, for as long as he’s been in the spotlight and for as intensely as it’s shown on him, is never completely comfortable talking about himself. Ask him if making the All-Star game – this year, of all years, when it’s in Chicago and just two years after being traded and waived, when a good chunk of the league thought he was done – is on his mind and Rose says, “No. I never in my life have played to be in the game. If people decide to put me in there, that’s cool. But if not, I’m going to keep playing the way I’m playing.”
When Magic announced he was HIV positive in November 1991 – at a time it seemed a virtual death sentence – it was David Stern who demanded tolerance of his inclusion in that year’s All-Star game even though Johnson was inactive at the time fans voted him in. It became one of Stern’s signature legacies. It made possible Johnson’s inclusion on the Dream Team, which accelerated the NBA’s international reach by a degree of magnitude.
A commissioner’s initiative to install Rose as an All-Star this year might not carry the same social significance, but it would be no less poetic or popular with the global fan base the NBA has cultivated.
And, c’mon, it would be no less warranted, either.
“I don’t know how many point guards there are in the league that are better,” Casey said. “Probably a few equal, but not a lot playing at a high level like he’s playing. We’re not a playoff team. I understand that. But he is an All-Star.”