While Koby Altman patted himself on the back for inking a former MVP on his first official day as full-time general manager, even Altman is keenly aware that Rose isn't that player anymore. That's one of the reasons Altman used a specific label when discussing the signing.
"We signed Derrick Rose, who will be a great off-the-bench backup point guard," Altman said.
The new GM, introduced during Wednesday's press conference, also mentioned that Rose has been a starter his entire career and could be ready for that role as well, especially if the Cavs end up moving on from disgruntled All-Star Kyrie Irving.
But Altman's choice of words can be interpreted a few different ways.
As owner Dan Gilbert pointed out, Irving is still under contract for at least two more seasons and he's currently penciled in as the unquestioned starter. Any mention of Rose as something other than a backup would indicate that Irving is not in Cleveland's plans, something the Cavs didn't want to address, instead referring to the situation as "fluid."
At this point, the Cavs have to do everything imaginable to send a league-wide signal that Irving is still in the mix. Anything other than that would potentially hurt his trade value. The Cavs want a massive haul for Irving and rightfully so. But teams already know he's unhappy -- so playing hardball and talking as if they're fine with bringing him to training camp could alter the kinds of offers they receive.
Maybe it's an olive branch to Irving, letting him know publicly that they'd still like to repair the relationship -- if that's possible -- and keep the core together.
Or perhaps Altman was just giving an honest assessment of Rose, who had to wait until late July to get legitimate contract offers. Rose is coming off his fourth straight season averaging fewer than 20 points per game and shot a dreadful 21 percent from beyond the arc, his worst outside shooting mark of his injury-riddled career.
Even though Rose is still just 28, something Gilbert was quick to point out on Wednesday, teams weren't looking at Rose for a starting role, which is why he needed to settle for a one-year, $2.1 million contract with the Cavaliers. Altman labeling him a backup helps manage expectations.
"He wanted to be in a place where he can play with excellent players and a place where he can play in meaningful games," Altman said. "It's funny, he uses the term, 'I just want to hoop.' He just wants to be here. He's excited to be here. He's in a great space mentally and his body looks great and we're really excited about him. He came here for the opportunity to win. He came here for the opportunity to play with other great players."
Of course, Rose also chose Cleveland because of LeBron James, who invited Rose to work out with him in Las Vegas.
"LeBron has been as helpful as he's ever been," Gilbert said. "He's active and helped with Derrick Rose and that's why Derrick Rose has signed here. He's been responsive. I think there's something that happens -- you win a championship and the next season I think there's a natural, 'Well are you -- the whole franchise -- are you as hungry as you were, especially after 52 years.' I think when you lost it like we did and we were closer than people I think give us credit for, if we didn't lose Game 3 at the end it would be a whole different series that probably would've went six or seven although we lost in five.
"I think it seems to me, I'm just a fan like you, and it looks like ... [LeBron's] hunger is as strong as I've ever seen. You saw him the next day and he's working out in the gym and I think he is very hungry for this season and he will tell you that too. I think beyond this season I don't know. We're focused on this season."
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