Coming off of a second major knee surgery in the same amount of years, Chicago Bulls star guard Derrick Rose now faces a cloudy future as questions surround him wherever he goes. “Will his knees ever be the same?”, “can he return to his 2011 form?”, “is he finished as the D Rose we once knew?”. Recently, USA coach Mike Krzyzewski reported Rose would not participate in the scrimmage against the Dominican Republic due to “body soreness”. We all suspect it’s his knees, and emotions of not only Bulls fans, but NBA fans in general, are mixed. Some are concerned, others just brush it off.
As a precautionary measure, Rose and Cleveland Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving will rotate starting point guard duties for the remainder of the FIBA World Cup. The question remains, can he return to the slashing, freakishly athletic, unstoppable player we witnessed grow up during the 2010-11 season? In his first return attempt, coming off of ACL surgery, Rose looked rusty. He struggled mightily in his first regular season game against the Bulls’ biggest rival at the time, the then star-studded Miami Heat, going 4-15 from the field (including 1-7 from three) and finishing with just 12 points. Not even a month later, just as Rose was getting back in his flow, the Bulls traveled to Portland to take on the red-hot Trail Blazers. With 3:30 left in the 3rd quarter, Rose attempted a cut to the basket. The pass from Joakim Noah was intercepted by Nicolas Batum and the star point guard came up limping. Rose would suffer a meniscus tear in his right knee (a non-contact injury), and after surgery, would miss a second consecutive season. Without the face of their franchise, the Bulls would go on to obtain the 4th seed in the east. Going up against a talented young team in Washington, featuring the likes of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Nene, and Marcin Gortat, Chicago was simply over matched offensively without their superstar. The Bulls would go on to lose the series in five games, and all focus shifted on getting Rose healthy for the upcoming season.
After getting rid of Carlos Boozer’s hefty contract, the Bulls made a splash this offseason, signing forward/center Pau Gasol, who even at 34, can provide scoring and rebounding, and is also a nice fit alongside Joakim Noah down low. Chicago is in prime position to be the main challenger to the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers for this year’s Eastern Conference crown, and a healthy Derrick Rose would only boost their chances even higher (if both he and Pau Gasol can remain healthy). Let’s take a look back at Rose’s MVP season.
The then third year guard averaged 25.0 points (career high), 4.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists, and 1.0 steals a game. He also shot a career high from the free throw line (86%). While the Bulls finished with the league’s best record of 62-20, they were unable to get out of the east, falling short to Miami’s “Big 3″ in the Eastern Conference Finals, much due to the needed growth and experience in Rose’s game. Following the season, Rose would sign a 5 yr, $94.8 million extension with Chicago. Following his MVP campaign, Rose would go on to have another successful season, but was also dealing with several nagging injuries, and finished with a career-low 39 games played (much due to the shortened schedule due to the lockout). While his scoring average dropped significantly (21.8), he averaged a career high in assists (7.9) and blocks (.7). For the second straight year, the Bulls finished with the east’s best record, this time of 50-16. Unfortunately for Bulls fans and the rest of the NBA, in game 1 of the first round against Philadelphia, Rose would suffer a potentially career-derailing injury. In the 4th quarter, with Chicago up double-digits, Rose went up to attempt one of his patented lay-ups. He landed awkwardly and was unable to move on his own. He suffered a complete ACL tear and was lost for the rest of the playoffs. Without him, the Bulls were unable to score enough points to get past the 76ers, and were dispatched in 6 games, giving the city of Chicago a second straight bitter ending.
There is plenty of room for hope though. Through the first few weeks of Team USA’s FIBA campaign, Rose has looked like, well Derrick Rose. Ultra confident in jumping off either knee again, he reminded all of us just how big of a superstar he is when healthy, and there is no reason he can’t return to his MVP form of two years ago. All there’s left to do is hope. Hope we’ll get 10+ years of the privilege of watching what could go down as the most athletic point guard in NBA history. Derrick Rose deserves it, the city of Chicago deserves it, and the entire basketball world deserves it.