GREENBURGH, N.Y. — New York Knicks point guard Derrick Rose said he left the team before Monday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans due to “a family issue” involving his mother.
“It had nothing to do with the team or basketball,” Rose said after returning to the Knicks on Tuesday. “That’s the first time I ever felt like that emotionally and I had to be with my family.”
Rose said he left the club without permission shortly after morning shootaround on Monday. He flew to Chicago, his hometown.
He flew back to New York on Tuesday morning and returned to practice. He apologized to team president Phil Jackson, general manager Steve Mills and his teammates.
“I didn’t want any distractions to the team, especially what we have going on right now and I apologized to them, just letting them know it will never happen again,” said Rose, who was fined an undisclosed amount for his absence. “This wasn’t me. This never happened to me before and I explained that to the team and the front office.”
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said the organization accepted Rose’s account of the absence.
“His explanation with the family is totally understandable,” the coach said.
Added Rose: “I just had to get to my family. I talked to [the Knicks] afterwards. Everybody’s on the same page now. They understood right away after I explained myself to them.”
Privately, though, members of the organization expressed frustration that Rose left the club without explanation.
Hornacek said Tuesday the Knicks decided not to suspend Rose because his absence was family related. He is expected to start on Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Rose’s absence left the Knicks in a state of confusion on Monday, hours before their loss to the Pelicans. Members of the organization could not reach Rose prior to the game and were concerned about his well-being, enough so that they sent a team staffer to check on him at his apartment, sources said.
Derrick Rose’s absence wasn’t mentioned when Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek spoke with the media about two hours before tipoff Monday.
Rose said he didn’t want to pick up the phone when the Knicks reached out to him Monday because he needed his “space” to process what was happening with his family.
“I needed that space to myself and I needed to be around my mom,” he said.
Rose contacted team officials during and after Monday’s game. He asked for the Knicks’ help in arranging a flight back to New York late Monday night, a source told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. He did not fly commercially.
After Tuesday’s practice, Rose said his family issue was resolved and that he did not expect to miss any more time to tend to the issue. He declined to provide specifics.
“Now I just want to focus,” he said. “There’s too much on my plate right now. I’m just trying to focus on the season like I’ve been doing since I’ve been here. But I can’t go back in the past and talk about that. Everything’s fine.”
Rose returns to a Knicks team that is sliding. Monday’s loss was New York’s eighth in nine games. The club has performed well below the expectations that Rose and others had entering the season.
Rose had been frustrated with the Knicks’ recent struggles, and Hornacek’s decision to bench him in the fourth quarter of the Milwaukee and Indiana games didn’t sit well with him, per sources. But Rose insisted that his absence Monday had nothing to do with basketball or anything other than his family issue.
Hornacek and Rose both denied that they have issues with one another.
“I never had a problem with a coach in my life, no matter what team I’ve been in on,” Rose said. “I put that on myself because I let that space and opportunity [for others to speculate on the situation], especially when people didn’t know what was going on or people are trying to find out or figure out what’s going on with the team.
“So I put that on myself with not telling the Knicks. It was just bad timing, but I’m not perfect, far from it.”
Hornacek hopes to use the incident as a teaching point for his team, which is 17-21 entering Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia.
“We want the trust of the players, from coaches to other teammates, the front office. We’re all in this together,” he said. “We all think of ourselves as a big family. So when things happen we want to try to help guys through things when they’re having those issues, and not kind of be on your lonesome trying to deal with things.”
Rose, 28, has averaged 17.3 points, 4.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 33 games for the Knicks. He missed four games earlier in the season because of back spasms but has been relatively healthy outside of those ailments. Unless the Knicks sign Rose to a contract extension, he will be a free agent this summer.