With all eyes on Derrick Rose this weekend, as he prepares to play his first game in 500-plus days, this familiar ethos can’t be how the former MVP approaches his return to the court.
The last time we saw Rose play he was 23 years old and one season removed from becoming the NBA’s youngest MVP.
Rose turned 25 today.
Ken Berger of CBSSports helps keep things in perspective:
If the time in between has felt like an eternity to you, imagine what it has felt like to Rose. He was playing in the 29th postseason game of his young career when he went down, and has endured what must seem like 29 stages of grief for anyone who has ever tried to come back from ACL surgery. The fallacy is that the final steps aren’t as excruciating as the first ones. In some ways, they’re worse.
When Rose returns to game action for the first time since the injury in the Bulls’ preseason opener at Indiana on Saturday, he will join a fraternity of ACL survivors. Even after all the grueling physical work — the rehab, the stretching, the strengthening, the frightening shedding of scar tissue, the scary, inevitable spills on the court — the journey is never really over.
Luckily, for Rose, his journey starts in the preseason, where, in the midst of an encouraging Chicago Bears season, the eyes and pressure will be minimal.
He will have time to work off the rust and regain his unprecedented feel and speed for the game back in time for the regular season, when he will again be asked to lead the Bulls through what now might seem like an unfamiliar Eastern conference.
The last time Rose saw the floor, the Miami Heat had not yet won a championship.
They’re currently the NBA’s two-time defending champions.
Not only is Miami still on top of the Eastern Conference, but there is more of a crowd at the top. It’s no longer just about
getting to and getting through the Heat. There is Brooklyn, Indiana and New York lurking. A healthy Cleveland team could cause problems in the first round. Detroit and Washington will not be free wins. And Atlanta is still a viable team at home.
And after stealing many of the headlines last spring from his teammates, who won over America while gritting and grinding into the second round of the playoffs without him, the pressure will be on Rose to lift them above and beyond.
“As long as I’m on the court playing this game that I’ve been missing for a whole year, I’m just happy to step out there — being with my teammates again, being involved and feeling like a player,” Rose said.
There’s no doubt Rose is talented enough, but singular talent isn’t enough anymore in the NBA. Not against lineups of LeBron-Wade-Bosh-Allen-Battier, Williams-Johnson-Pierce-Garnett-Lopez and George-West-Hibbert-Granger-Hill. Rose will need to play smarter and more efficient than he ever has, all while trying to relearn the game.
A slow start to the season could mean missing out entirely on home-court — for any round — in these playoffs. Something the Bulls have become accustomed to throughout, holding the best record in the East in each of Derrick’s last two healthy seasons.
Happy birthday Derrick. Take a night to celebrate number 25, completing a grueling rehab and the start to a fresh season.
Tomorrow, all of that becomes a distant memory. And a new journey will begin.
Onto more from around the NBA…