You’ve all seen the commercial or heard the infamous commentary from the on-hand announcer declaring that Derrick Rose had just fallen with what looked like a critically severe knee injury last April.
“Holding onto his knee, holding onto his knee and down” were the words spoken and now that phrase serves as a chilling reminder of how fast a team’s and a player’s season can be changed.
This will be forever captured in time as the moment one of the game’s brightest young stars, and the hopes and dreams of an entire city almost crumbled to the ground.
With a 1:20 left to play, the Bulls had built up a lead of 12 points over the Philadelphia 76ers in a late April contest in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Daring as always, Rose cut to the basket for a layup, changed his mind midway to the hoop and made a jump-stop.
No sooner than when his feet touched the ground did he immediately drop to the floor in excruciating pain. Rose tore his anterior cruciate ligament on that fateful drive and ended up missing the rest of what was already an injury-shortened season for the reigning-MVP at that time.
The standard recovery from a torn ACL is roughly nine months and can be much longer. Throughout the rehabilitation process, it is said that there has to be a balance between working too hard and hurting oneself in the long run, along with doing too little and never returning to full strength again.
Luckily, Rose is a professional athlete and has unquestionably received some of the best rehabilitative care on the planet. A lot of hard work and determination is necessary to make a full recovery from any kind of injury, let alone a ligament tear.
Many athletes have had injuries similar to what Rose suffered and have come back to experience great success. The most recent example is Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who tore ligaments in his knee last season and not only recovered in what had to be close to record time, but also came within nine yards of breaking the all-time single season rushing record.
I cannot imagine the strength of mind it takes to work endlessly for month after month just to return to where you were at one point in time. Peterson did it and set the benchmark for making a comeback from serve injury.
Now it is Rose’s turn to show the world how much he wants it. When speaking of someone as resolute as Rose, it is difficult to fathom a version of him returning that is not going to dominate the game like he did previously.
“The Return” is more than just an ingenious marketing ploy on behalf of adidas. It represents the heart and emotions of a city that has longed for a true star ever since Michael Jordan decided to leave the game.
Chicago loves its sports as much as any major city in the United States. Rose is somebody the city can rally behind and put their faith in because they know he will do whatever it takes to bring his city and his team back to its previous glory.
Whether we want to admit it or not, none of us really knows what to expect from Rose when he steps on the court with his No. 1 Bulls jersey on for the first time.
Will he have lost a step? Will he be able to score at will like he once did? Will he still dive in between defenders to the basket like an acrobat? Will he have the mental fortitude to work his way back into the game gradually while doing all he can to help his team win?
Unfortunately, none of these questions can be answered definitively at this point, but I think most people have a pretty good feeling about how great The Return will be for Rose, for the Bulls and for the entire Association.
Rose was and still may be one of the game’s most explosive and petrifyingly fast players. Even without playing a single game this season, he is counted among the top five point guards in the NBA whenever the discussion arises.
He has taken the league by storm early on in his professional playing career by showing that a point guard can be floor general, creator, passer scorer and star while helping his team earn wins. He has paved the way for other multi-faceted, highly athletic point guards like Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Jrue Holiday and Kyrie Irving to succeed and be accepted for what they are in this league.
As Rose steadily improves and works toward getting back on the court, his Bulls have muscled their way into third-place in the Eastern Conference behind the efforts of their two All-Stars, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. Their overall record is 28-17 and they are 22-7 against Eastern Conference opponents.
They are threatening to overtake the New York Knicks for the second-best record in the East and are even gaining on the Miami Heat. They have done a nice job setting themselves apart from the teams right below them in the standings.
They have exceeded all expectations set for them as a team without their star. Accessory players such as Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler, Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson have all stepped up in Rose’s absence.
Boozer started slowly this season, but was playing at such a high level by the time All-Star voting finished that some television analysts had him as a member of the East’s squad. Butler is a young, explosive player on the wing and Hinrich has done everything he can to keep the offense functioning. Robinson has been a welcomed spark plug of energy and offense off the bench.
I like this team’s chemistry and unselfish, team-centric focus. It doesn’t matter who is doing the scoring as long as the end result is in their favor.
I would argue that even without Rose, the Bulls have a good shot at making it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Stifling defensive pressure and substantial frontcourt scoring have been the keys to this team’s success.
Everyone is picking up the slack and their only real deficiency is creating offense off the dribble. They have the fifth-best defense in the league currently and the twenty-sixth best offense. The need for a scorer is obvious. Add Rose into the mix and going forward, and now the sky is the limit.
If Rose plays near the level we have come to expect of him in his return, the Bulls will be serious contenders to make it to the NBA Finals. He has career averages of 21 points, seven assists and four rebounds per game. That is a lot of production being added to an already prospering team.
It really is amazing that they are in the playoff picture over halfway into the season. The Bulls are sticking to their game-plan and making a living on their grit and will to win.
Of the two conferences, it is evident that the talent in the West easily outmatches the East’s. This bodes well for the Bulls because they are already near the top of the standings. Home-court advantage would be a nice asset to have on their side when they eventually have to face one of their Eastern Conference foes like the Heat, Knicks or Indiana Pacers.
Now that the Bulls can confidently play without Rose, it only makes sense that they will be that much better when he is running the point again. His importance may be underplayed because of the Bulls’ success without him but he brings too much to the table to not have a significant impact on this season.
Work still needs to be done before Rose brings his talents back to the floor. Chicago needs to continue to grow as a unit and develop more scoring options before the All-Star break. There is no set return date, just estimation for Rose, indicating that he is still a ways away from joining the team.
It was reported that he is now taking contact in practice; another step closer to getting back. Most approximations have him returning in February.
The Return will be the best thing that has happened in the NBA this entire season. Rose is an inspiration to many and signifies the heart of a whole city. His talents are endless and his influence goes well beyond the court.
The NBA needs one of its shining stars back.
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