It’s of little consolation to Chicago Bulls fans, a day ahead of the one-month anniversary of the team’s final game of the season, but for the first time in quite a long time Derrick Rose seems to be recovering from his ACL tear at an expected rate. The injury, which took place during the first game of the first round of the 2012 playoffs, cost Rose the entire 2012-13 season amid much consternation about the motives behind him sitting out.
According to Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, though, Rose is right where he’s supposed to be in terms of rehab. Even if the Bulls aren’t where they’d hoped to be – playing for an NBA title in the second week of June. From ESPN Chicago’s Jon Greenberg:
"I worked him out about a week ago," Thibodeau said in a phone conversation Thursday. "It was great."
"Watching the way he's moving now, there's a confidence," Thibodeau said. "[Reporters] may not have been able to see the total work he was putting in. But he was putting in an enormous amount of work each and every day. He just never got to the explosiveness he was comfortable with. I think he's there now. He feels great, and that's the most important thing."
Thibodeau went on to defend Rose’s decision to sit out the season, pointing out that Rose maintained from Day 1 that he wouldn’t return until he was ready to, and Rose simply wasn’t ready to be tossed into the fire with an oft-injured playoff toward the latter stages of a limpy regular season, and a banged up postseason. Rose would have been asked to act the savior for these Bulls in March, April and May, even if the franchise gave him all the support it needed while attempting to persuade observers that they weren’t pushing him to save the season.
Rose doesn’t work any other way. It was always going to be full bore with him, playing 40 minutes and dominating the ball, and the half-measure routine just wouldn’t have worked out.
Thibs signed off on as much in his interview, telling Greenberg that “it was a smart decision to wait,” and that in late-season practices with the Bulls Rose “also wasn't able to make the kinds of plays he likes to make.”
That should be enough for Rose’s critics. If it isn’t, and you haven’t already shot down to the comment section, try this on for size.
We’re still technically within the confines of the 2012-13 NBA season, but to Bulls fans (and I count myself as one), the team’s 2012-13 season seems like it took place ages ago. It was frustrating, as the months went on, to wonder what might have been – but the team’s fortunes were set in stone as soon as the MRI results came back for Rose in April of 2012. There would be a minor rebuild, the championship aspirations would have to be put on hold, and the team was going to reconfigure its roster even if Derrick returned for 20 games or so.
And now it all feels like yesterday’s news. Last year’s news, really.
The side benefit of that patience? Derrick Rose gets to return under his own terms. He doesn’t suffer a crisis of confidence created by late-season play that could have lingered throughout the summer. As it stands, he’ll enter 2013-14 with nostrils flared, and his last memory as an active player will be of leading the team that tied for the best record in the NBA in 2011-12 to a potential title. And not some thrown-together playoff run featuring Nate Robinson and Nazr Mohammed for long stretches.
The reward Bulls players, coaches, and fans will receive for gutting their own way through 2012-13 will be a fully healthy Derrick Rose, confident in the support around him, making his own decisions. It will be worth the wait.