The Minnesota Timberwolves shocked nobody except those who subscribe to common sense when news broke late Thursday morning that they will sign Derrick Rose for the rest of this season.
The reason for doing so is transparently obvious: Timberwolves head coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau is close to Rose and coached him during a miraculous MVP season seven years ago, when both were employed by the Chicago Bulls. It's understandable, given their bond, for Thibodeau to help a player who elevated the former Coach of the Year's own reputation and standing once upon a time. That isn't to say Thibodeau wouldn't be who he is without Rose, but their relationship was clearly a mutually beneficial one.
Of course, that was also two teams and several knee surgeries ago. It was before the mental toll that a crushing fall from grace can have obliterated Rose’s psyche, which led the 29-year-old to contemplate walking away from the sport several times. As a point guard who doesn’t defend, can’t shoot, and lacks the consistent electricity that’s needed to mask those aforementioned weaknesses, Rose's time as a relevant NBA player is over. There's an easy case to be made that he probably shouldn't even be in the league.
And that creates an extremely tricky dynamic for a good team that's currently struggling to make the playoffs. The ninth-seeded Denver Nuggets and 10th-seeded Utah Jazz are only two games back from Minnesota, which sits in the six hole. The Timberwolves are paper thin on the wing, don't need a third point guard, and could’ve filled that roster spot with someone who can better balance out their lopsided roster.
And then, of course, there's Karl-Anthony Towns. We have no reason to cast doubt on his future with the Timberwolves, but personnel decisions that repeatedly make life harder for him to thrive will likely weigh against the five-year max extension Minnesota will offer Towns later this year. Why take the risk when the reward is so low?
A positive takeaway from this move is Rose's body appears to be 100 percent healthy, and he's already familiar with Thibodeau’s system. Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler are former teammates. He may feel more comfortable surrounded by familiar faces than he was in New York or Cleveland, and more motivated once he realizes that this is probably his last chance as a professional player in a competitive situation. That’s a best-case-scenario way to look at it.
But Rose's strengths really don’t make sense in this environment, at this time. In 308 minutes with the Cavaliers this season, he posted the second-lowest PER of his career with the second-highest turnover rate.
Will he even play? Bring him off the bench with Jamal Crawford and the Timberwolves will be a turnstile. There was a recent call around these parts for Thibodeau to play Jeff Teague and Tyus Jones together as a way to spark Minnesota's offense while Butler is out. Jones is a lot better than Rose in just about every way. What if Thibs cuts further into Jones’s minutes than he already has?
It’s unusual to say this about a late-season signing, but more bad than good can come from this. Minnesota's upcoming schedule is a bumpy ride, and from an organization-wide perspective, a lot is on the line over these next few weeks. Putting the ball in Rose's hands doesn't seem like a smart thing to do.