Jalen Rose Talks About Why Positions Are Overrated

We spoke with the NBA star and ESPN commentator about the playoffs and why positions are meaningless.
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We spoke with the NBA star and ESPN commentator about the playoffs and why positions are meaningless.
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Jalen Rose has been an NBA commentator almost as long as he was a player in the league. Because of that experience, Rose has been able to provide both a player's perspective on the game, as well as that of a member of the ever-chattering basketball media. Rose, who appears on NBA countdown during the weekends and every night during the later rounds of the playoffs, has his own podcast, is a frequent contributor to Grantland, and has a new book coming out this fall. 

Rose spoke to Maxim about the importance of an NBA bench, how positions are a thing of the past, and some of his most personal moments.  

After the first couple of games, what has been the biggest surprise for you?

I think the biggest surprise is that in eight series so far, five of the teams are currently leading 2-0. In particular, a Washington Wizards team was able to go Toronto and win both their games on the road. So that probably would be the thing that would jump out to me the most going into the playoffs. 

Looking at Toronto especially, a team that has had a pretty good regular season, what is it about this match up with Washington that hasn’t worked out for them?

Well first you got to give John Wall a lot of credit — he’s had a 26 and 17 in the most recent game. He is one of the only guys in the league that actually led his team in points and assists, so they rely a lot on him. Bradley Beal has gotten healthy, he had 20 plus points, and they have to be the catalysts; Paul Pierce took a lot of pressure off of his young guys coming into the series with his comments but when the Washington Wizards are truly playing like a team that can and should advance it’s when Gortat and Nene are engaged on both side of the floor. The team led the league in points in the paint, so when those guys are being dominant, Washington is tough to beat.

Rajon Rondo has had such a small role with the Mavs, and their playing so, so poorly. What are your thoughts on what the outcome of that trade has been like and what the future for Rondo really holds?

Well a couple of things, Rick Carlisle has proven that he is one of the top coaches in the league, there are only four coaches currently in the NBA that have even won a championship. But the names on the team look a lot better if  this was a few years ago. Dirk made the sacrifice for the team a few years ago, in theory he’s the lowest paid starter, so he made the sacrifice that he was going to let the team tobuild the roster around him. You’re brining in Rajon Rondo who has been dealing with a knee injury, and attitude-wise and productivity-wise hasn’t been the same player that they saw in Boston.  They also got a couple of castaways from the Knicks that you can’t rely in Amare Stoudemire and Raymond Felton.  Devin Harris is dealing with an injury, Chandler Parsons has now been ruled out for the playoffs. So without Chandler Parsons the rest of the series and without Rajan Rondo who’s allegedly out because of a back injury but I think it has more to do with his behavior in game two, I give the Mavs as low a chance as you can get for advancing.

Obviously the Spurs have been able to win because they have such a deep bench. How important are those benches for winning a championship? You look at a team like Cleveland and which doesn’t have as deep a bench as some of their opponents.

The term "bench" gets over-used, especially this time of the year. The bottom line is that you want to have nine guys based on whatever situation that you can go to, and ten if you need another big for fouls. So if you have ten quality guys that you can put in and that have earned your trust normally that helps the team be successful, so you see teams that are shorthanded like the Clippers that I think will be able to advance but I think this is why they will hit a buzz saw when they go against a deep team like the Golden State Warriors. The Cleveland Cavaliers could also hit a road block going against a healthy Bulls team.

The Bulls obviously have shown that they are playing with a good amount of cohesion after a  rough injury-laden year. Do you think that they’re going to be able to stay healthy and do they really have a shot coming out of the Eastern Conference?

I was someone that picked the Bulls at the begnning of the year to come out of the east and I still have to own it. I’m not going to waver on my pick just because the Cavs picked up J.R Smith and Iman Shumpert during the year. I’m not going to be the guy to flip-flop on a pick. The reason why I felt the Bulls had a chance to advance against the Cavs is because of their depth and experience: Pau Gasol was an All-Star this year, Joakim Noah was All-NBA last year, Mirotic has a chance to be Rookie of the Year, and Taj Gibson is always in the conversation for Sixth Man of the Year. I truly believe those bigs up front have an opportunity to outplay Mozgov, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, and Lebron in the paint.

When it comes to the seasons that the Knicks and Sixers just had, where they were built to lose, what’s the mentality for the player where ownership doesn’t have a long term plan for you?

Two things: it’s called professional sacrifice and we’re all human-- if you’re talented at something and you know your future is limited you’re not going to go all out for it. This is like a relationship if you’re mate tells you they’re leaving in two weeks  -- how do you behave over those 14 days? Probably not that great.

Looking back at your playing days, I feel like your style of play and your body type has taken over the game. You look at Russell Westbrook and Steph Curry, for example. 

I
t has become a league of judging only by talent and not by pushing you into a specific position. When I came along people were hell bent on trying to tell me what position I was. We could talk endlessly about where Steph Curry or Russell Westbrook play and what position Lebron James or Anthony Davis play — is Anthony Davis a 4 or 5 and is Lebron a 3  or is he a 4, is he Batman or is he Robin? I just think talent is all that matters -- not what position you play. 

You have a book coming out at the end of the year that kind of gives us a look behind-the-scenes of your life, do you have any stories you want to preview real quick? 

One of my favorite stories growing up is I wet the bed till about the third or fourth grade.

That taught you to become a better individual.

Well, no. It taught me how to deal with bullies and people being mean to you. When you have no money in your pocket, you can’t buy new clothes frequently, your shoes are busted and people judge you off for your appearance a lot of the time. I was a skinny dude and I had bad skin and bad teeth -- I had to learn to deal with the meanness and overcome it. 

When you retired from  the game did you think you were still able to compete, or did you leave at the time you wanted to leave ?

I 100% left at the time I wanted to and needed to. You know it’s time to retire when you’re buying more tickets to the game then the amount of minutes you’re playing. That’s when it’s time.

Photos by Tom O'Connor/NBAE via Getty Images