Once upon a time, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose were viewed as practically indestructible athletic marvels.
On the other hand, Stephen Curry was viewed as a potentially risky investment because of his debilitating ankle issues.
Consequently, the assumption was that Rose and Westbrook would eventually compete for the title of best point guard alive, while Curry would be the often injured floor general that occasionally produces terrific offensive showings.
These roles have since been reversed, and there’s an argument to be made that the future outlooks for all three players have drastically changed.
In Game 1 of a 2012 first-round series matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers, Derrick Rose tore his ACL. He spent the entirety of the ensuing campaign rehabbing his injury and getting himself ready for his eventual return.
Many expected Rose to rejoin his team in 2012-13 and steer the Chicago Bulls to a postseason run with a shot at dethroning the Miami Heat. That moment never came sadly for Bulls fans.
He missed the season and finally returned early in 2013-14. Rose appeared in 10 games and posted a career-low PER of 10. That’s when disaster struck… again.
The former league MVP suffered a medial meniscus tear that essentially ended his season. By the time the 2014-15 season starts, Rose will have played a total of 10 contests since the start of 2012-13.
There’s a chance that Rose will never be the same explosive player again. The superstar was once upon a time a one-man fast break and terror going to the basket. Now, it’s possible that he is the next Penny Hardaway.
The former Orlando Magic point guard was once upon a time an All-NBA performer, but injuries robbed him of his explosive first step and leaping ability. Old school basketball fans know that Hardaway went toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan in the 1996 playoffs and was quite impressive.
Hopefully that is not the case for Rose, who was supposed to be LeBron James’ Eastern Conference nemesis. However, optimism is hard to come by from the outside looking in.
Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose were probably separated at birth. Westbrook’s athleticism and ball-handling is eerily reminiscent of Rose, but their games are different.
The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard is not as disciplined as his Chicago Bulls counterpart offensively, but he finds ways to produce, especially by attacking the paint.
Indeed, once Westbrook gets near the basket area, the three-time All-Star is difficult to handle because he is one of the most lethal finishers in basketball.
However, there is a slight possibility that the former UCLA Bruin might be damaged goods. He was sidelined during the 2013 playoffs with a lateral meniscus tear. A day prior to the start of the 2013-14 training camp, Westbrook had arthroscopic surgery to address swelling in his knee.
Surprisingly, he returned early in the season and suited up in 25 games. Unlike Rose, Westbrook looked real good and then the rug got pulled from under him. Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports has the details:
An MRI that was part of the post-surgery protocol was taken in Los Angeles on either Dec. 23 or Dec. 24, and it revealed an area of concern. The decision was then made that Westbrook would go under the knife for a third time.
Even in the age of modern medicine, the idea that Westbrook has had three surgeries on the same knee in less than 12 months is a bit perplexing. Hopefully his physical condition will improve, and OKC will welcome back its star point guard.
As far as health is concerned, Westbrook is probably a surer bet to return to form than Rose, but nothing is truly certain on this front. In essence, this means that the player with the best chance to claim the top spot at point guard in the near future among this group is none other than…
Much was made about Stephen Curry’s lingering ankle issues given that he’s battled them throughout the majority of his basketball life. His right ankle was so problematic that the sharpshooter missed the final 40 games of the 2011-12 campaign.
It got the to the point that Joe Lacob publicly shared some fears with respect to Curry’s health with Rusty Simmons of the SF Chronicle:
We’re going to continue to look at all of the doctors’ reports and get as much information as we can, but no one can really say for sure why this keeps occurring. We need to know, though. We’ll get another opinion if we have to. If it requires shutting him down, then we’ll do it. If it doesn’t, he’ll be back playing in a month. It’s very important that he’s healthy, and we’re not going to risk further injury.
This speaks to how bad things were with Curry. It was widely assumed that he would struggle to remain on the court and as a result, when the Golden State point guard signed a four-year $44 million extension, some winced at the deal.
And yet, with the 2014 All-Star break looming, Curry has only missed seven games since signing his new contract. The newly selected All-Star might look perhaps a little fragile because of his slight frame, but make no mistake, he has consistently participated in the majority of his team’s games save for the 2011-12 campaign.
Health is a tricky thing to project, but the evidence suggests that Curry will likely be the last man standing in the point guard battle that involves Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook.