Commentary

Adidas desperate after Rose injury?

Updated: November 26, 2013, 4:20 PM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

Derrick Rose going down for another season will create the biggest offseason for basketball shoe free agents in the history of the game.

This summer was already looking promising with Kevin Durant's Nike deal up -- and his agent, Jay Z, more motivated financially to make a change -- plus the likes of one-and-dones Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
AP Photo/Michael ConroyHow much of an impact will another lost Derrick Rose season have on sales of the adidas D Rose 4?

But Rose's injury figures to push adidas into desperation.

As the basketball shoe business has grown, adidas has been a bit player -- 5.5 percent of the U.S. basketball shoe market compared to Nike's 90 percent -- based on a combination of bad scouting, bad execution and bad luck.

Let's start with the scouting. Nike execs have invested so much into making sure they get the big guys -- and it shows. They land guys like LeBron and Durant, paying what they have to.

Meanwhile, adidas has spent way too much time with big men like Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard, who don't sell shoes. More recently, adidas has put its marketing muscle behind John Wall, Ricky Rubio and Damian Lillard, all of whom are on teams that aren't moving the needle.

After losing LeBron in the 2003 draft, adidas didn't get Carmelo Anthony either. The company could have had Dwyane Wade for $500,000 a year, but passed.

Instead, the next year, adidas got enthralled with Sebastian Telfair, who was drafted by the company's hometown Portland Trail Blazers, and gave him millions. Another bust.

Then came the bad luck. Adidas had Kobe and lost him. And it had D-Rose, but he got hurt and is now hurt again.

Adidas did what it had to do by overpaying for Rose a couple of years ago. The company saw the writing on the wall. It knew that signature shoes were on fire so they decided to pay him more than $20 million a year for more than a decade.

It's hard to argue with that strategy.

But the latest injury might lead one to believe that Rose isn't the shoe-selling star adidas thought he was.

Sales of the D Rose 4 aren't expected to fall completely flat. The shoes are priced at $140, $20 below last year's retail price. Believe it or not, that price comes off as affordable when you compare it to the $200 LeBrons. And they're in colors -- black, gray and red -- that have stayed hot in the post-Jordan era.

That being said, sales won't exactly be off the charts with Rose sitting on the sideline in dress shoes.

Sources say the adidas deal with Rose can't be undone, but the company can start to recover money once Rose misses two-thirds of any given season. If the company can prove that shoe sales gave been hurt, it can deduct some of the money owed to Rose. It's uncertain what happened last year when Rose missed the season following ACL surgery.

Adidas might need some of that extra cash because it can't possibly leave the game. Sure, soccer is more important to its overall portfolio, but as the official apparel licensee of the NBA, adidas has to have a presence in the signature shoe game.

Combine all this with the fact that the basketball shoe market is soaring and there's finally a group of fresh pitchmen (Wiggins and Parker) in the marketplace, and it's easy to see why adidas might have to bet bigger than ever before on talent this summer.

Not only will adidas have to come with a bag of money, but Rose's injury might suggest a greater diversification. Perhaps that means adidas executives have to strategize how to land both Wiggins and Parker.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

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