In a traditional tarot deck, a classically illustrated set of cards which is used as a form of fortune-telling or divination, the fourth card in the deck is known as “The Emperor”. depicting a ruler with a long white beard — a symbol for wisdom — sitting upon a throne adorned by rams heads; a symbol of Mars, the ancient Roman god of war and the guardian of agriculture.
He is the top of the secular hierarchy, the ultimate male ego, and with it, the absolute ruler of the world.
The Emperor is a favorite of Derrick Rose, who listed the fourth card of a tarot deck as one of the reasons — along with his group of friends, his daughter’s birthday, the number of kids his mother has, and the day of creation in the bible — as to why he chose to wear No. 4 upon his return to the New York Knicks; a perfect representation of his role in his second stint with the club. His previously-worn No. 1 now belongs to Obi Toppin.
The 32-year-old veteran point guard once possessed the raw intangibles and skillset to rule the basketball world before injuries derailed a career that had a Hall-of-Fame trajectory by the time he was 22 after winning a league MVP with the Chicago Bulls and head coach — now Knicks bench boss — Tom Thibodeau.
He overcame a torn ACL, a torn meniscus, and an orbital bone fracture to not just hang around in the NBA after the Bulls cut ties with him, but to prove that he was a contributor. That first chance came with the Knicks in the 2016-17 season where he averaged 18.0 points and 4.4 assists per game.
After a brief stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017-18, he joined Minnesota Timberwolves — where Thibodeau was coaching — before spending the last year-plus with the Detroit Pistons.
Upon the realization that a trade was in the best interest for both Rose and the Pistons best interest, Thibodeau came calling again to bring him to the Knicks, completing a trade for him by Monday.
By Monday night, he was having dinner with rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley, already imparting his wisdom upon the up-and-coming star as he adopts the role of a mentor.
It’s here in New York where he’ll be responsible for the growth of the Knicks’ crop of promising youngsters, most notably Quickley, going to war for a head coach he knows so well — a new dimension of his career, but oh so similar to that of the wisdom of The Emperor.
“Understand that I want to a mentor to these younger guys and help develop them. At the same time, I want to show that I can still hoop a little bit.
“The synergy we have, I can’t explain it. We’re an odd couple, but for some reason, we understand the game,” Rose said of his relationship with Thibodeau. “The closest thing I can probably say is that we’re students of the game. We watch the game, we try to understand the game more and try to get better… There’s always room for improvement and it’s for the betterment of the team.
“Wherever I go, wherever he goes, he’s trying to win and I’m on the same page.”
Rose immediately saw action on Tuesday night in a 98-96 loss to the Miami Heat where he put on a strong showing of 14 points with three assists in just 20 minutes while getting time down the stretch playing alongside Quickley.
“You see it often where you have multiple point guards out on the floor,” Thibodeau said of playing the two together. “It gives you another ball-handler and a secondary ball-handler — and you could probably include Alec [Burks] in that as well. So it gives us three guys that can go off the dribble and all three are very efficient off pick and rolls so I like those guys together.
“Their versatility allows them to play with both groups so I think we’ll see some of that as we go forward as well.”
That’s music to Rose’s ears, who didn’t hold back in his praising of Quickley.
“He’s getting double-teamed in his rookie year. There aren’t many rookies that are kind of attention,” Rose said. “So for him to see that kind of early is just going to make his game better. It’s going to slow down more. He listens, that’s the greatest thing about him, he listens.
“With that, you always have room for improvement and he’s a dog. He’s a dog, bro. I can’t explain it. You have to be a player to understand it. If we’re in a fight, I know he’s fighting, so it’s going down.”
It’s going to take something of mythic proportions to get the Knicks out of the two-decade-long hole that they’ve been languishing in. But with things moving in the right direction under Thibodeau, the hope is that the Emperor-like Rose will only help to grease the wheels of motion.