There are few remnants of the team Phil Jackson left in place. The Knicks have worked diligently to erase nearly every reminder of that time in franchise history. But one of the gambles that Jackson took appeared at Madison Square Garden on Friday night, displaying the sort of promise that Jackson had hoped to get from him.
Derrick Rose was a twist in Jackson’s rebuilding plan for the Knicks. It was a trade that didn’t pay off, as he spent one strange season in New York, arriving with the cloud of sexual-assault charges that kept him in court much of the preseason and disappearing for one game when he contemplated retiring.
But his injury-riddled career has resurfaced in Minnesota. He played a total of only 25 games last season between his time in Cleveland and Minnesota, but he has played 42 this season, averaging 18.2 points — his highest average in seven seasons. He put up a career-high 50 points in a game earlier this season.
With the Timberwolves arriving at the Garden shorthanded Friday — star center Karl-Anthony Towns was held out in concussion protocol — Rose scored 20 points to lead Minnesota to a 115-104 win over the Knicks, providing a bit of revenge for himself and for Jackson.
‘It’s great. It’s always great playing here,” said Rose, who played 23 minutes off the bench. “The fans are great. I know I felt good just being back in the league and just playing the way that I normally played, playing with that aggression and just playing my game.
“It wasn’t about how I got let go or me playing here. I just love the stage, playing here. I was trying to win the game.”
In the process, he helped stretch the Knicks’ home losing streak to 18, dating to Dec. 1. They fell to 11-48.
“I’m really happy for him,” Knicks coach David Fizdale said. “I have awful memories of him blowing by us when I was an assistant in Miami. They gave us all we could handle, that Chicago team, while he was winning MVP. For him to go through everything he’s gone through, to see him back at a high level, I’m just really happy for him.”
Rose, 30, is still a shadow of the player who was the MVP in 2011, the youngest to ever win the award. But if he is not quite as athletic as he once was before all of the surgeries, he has learned the lessons afforded a veteran. He laughed as he pointed out that he has been in the NBA for 11 years, which helped him understand how his time in New York went awry and the team he thought would contend is nearly all gone.
“I think so,” Rose said when asked if he was surprised that Kristaps Porzingis was traded. “Same with Melo [Carmelo Anthony] and KP. I think everybody was kind of surprised and devastated but, you know, this is a business before anything.”
Damyean Dotson, who could be on borrowed time as a starter with Fizdale hinting that he would like to play Dennis Smith Jr. and Emmanuel Mudiay together in the backcourt, remained in the starting lineup Friday and made the most of it.
Dotson scored the Knicks’ first 11 points, and by the time the game was 7 minutes, 40 seconds old, he already had piled up 18 points, the highest point total by any Knick in a quarter this season. But he scored only two more.
Allonzo Trier scored 20 points, Kevin Knox added 18 and DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 19 rebounds for the Knicks.