In 2009, D Rose won the NBA Rookie of the Year award. In 2010, he made it to his first All-Star team. At 22 years old, he was the NBA’s youngest MVP. He was basically on top of the league and was an athletic freak of nature. It was as if no one could stop his highlight-worthy plays.
Then in 2012, he tore his ACL, which started a downward spiral of several injuries to both his menisci, knees, and ankles which lasted up to 2017. Various basketball experts and couch analysts had written him off for good.
Last year, which was probably his last chance at redemption, Rose suddenly began to produce MVP-like numbers for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He still wasn’t able to finish the whole season, but there was definitely more than a glimpse of hope that the D Rose of old would be back. This season, he is back to scoring 21 points per game and if he can stay healthy for most of the season, we could potentially see him back in the All Star Game.
So why was D Rose so injury-plagued after his MVP year and how was he able to overcome it after so long? Here are some of my theories based on almost 20 years of training athletes on all levels.
First of all, Rose played just one year of college ball. College in the US is where you will find the most established strength and conditioning programs and coaches. And it is at this age where basketball players will mature into their bodies. Since he played only one year, he was most likely exposed to a proper program for only three to six months.
As I wrote in the now defunct Men's Health Philippines back in 2015, "He came into the league after playing just one year of college ball. I would believe most high school programs don’t have the best strength training or physical preparation programs. So, he missed out on four years of good quality training that would have built a solid movement and strength base."
From experience, the most athletic kids on a team feel they don’t need to invest too much time and effort in strength training, since they can already do what nobody else can’t.
My theory is that the daily grind of the NBA, together with his explosive moves, caught up with his body. It basically broke down like a race car that wasn’t maintained very well.
So, what's changed, now that he's with the Pistons? New video clips of D Rose have surfaced where he is devoting more time in the weight room. Instead of focusing mostly on skills training, he is seen doing strength training exercises (sometimes classified as "functional training"), using different equipment such as med balls and incorporating a lot of single-leg exercises.
Was this all it took for him to be playing more games again and putting up 50 point nights? Probably not. Being healthy enough to play 82 games a year involves a combination of a lot of factors involving skill training, team practices, minutes per game, strength and conditioning, recovery methods such as sleep and healthy nutrition, proper mindset, and so much more. So, a newly resurgent Rose could have been a product of a change in strength and conditioning methods, or a change in all of those elements. But for me, a quote I saw on Facebook might sum it up for the new and healthier Derrick Rose:
“Injuries should never end a training career. They should start a smarter one.”
I think he was finally able to accept the limitations of his God-given athletic ability and found ways on how to take care of it.
Julio Veloso is a graduate of the University of the Philippines (Bachelor of Sports Science) and the University of Sydney (Masters in Exercise and Sports Science). He has trained athletes from high school, college, and up to the professional level, including several UAAP and PBA teams.