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Bulls Fri Jan 25 2013
Derrick Rose tearing his ACL was scary. Him returning is just as frightening. What if he's not the same? Can you stand watching him suffer setbacks, which are a commonplace on the corrugated road to recovery? The lion's share of Bulls fans have made peace with playing games without Rose, but his return has always given them peace of mind. Rose scrimmaged against teammates on Tuesday. Thursday it was reported he was participating in two-on-two drills. Saturday I'm sure it will be noted the Bulls are having Rip Hamilton and Marco Belinelli guard Rose so he can get used to being fouled. By Monday, he could even be taking charges that Nate Robinson so generously gives to his defenders. The point is, this is really happening, Rose will be playing in a regular season game for the Bulls -- this season. Early season paranoia and pessimism of the return has been substituted for excitement and optimism. Both rationals are reasonable, below are some things Bulls fans should consider for Rose's immenant comeback.
Training talking points account for zero game points.
In #TheReturn video series, we saw Rose work medicine ball like the hungriest contestant on NBC's "The Biggest Loser" competition. A lot of Rose's training programs have been turned into fodder on why he's going to have the best season anyone has ever had in basketball, ever. "Rose has been doing a lot of core work, can he win the MVP award in just two months of play?" There's talk of the muscle he's added. "Ten pounds of muscle, maybe coach Thibodeau can let him bang the boards at Center position to give Joakim Noah a breather!" Rose has had nothing but time to work on his jump shot. "OK, that's actually a good thing." Chicago sports radio callers aside, you hear about athletes coming off an injury or a bad season taking MMA training programs, doing Bikram yoga, taking pointe dance lessons, and other unusual efforts to play better. Rose has to trust his knee. There's no short cut, no unconventional regiment, or rehab for Rose to help him decide if he should split LeBron James and Dwayne Wade's double team or pull up and take a low percentage shot. A lot of Roses early success is dependent on if he can convince himself to just play his game. The old football cliché that's shouted to any of us who played Pop Warner football is, "When you go half-speed, that's when you get hurt." Speaking of football...
Minnesota star players who also tore their ACLs.
The argument of assumed NFL MVP Adrian Peterson who came back from an ACL tear nine months earlier, then almost broke the NFL's single-season rushing record, has been overused as a case for Rose returning to MVP levels instantly. Peterson himself recently said that Rose should attack the game when he returns. With all due respect to Peterson, basketball and football are different sports -- a lot more jumping in hoops than gridiron gallops. I personally never understood why journalists gave this notion legs, so to speak. The better comparison would be to Minnesota's other sports star returning from a ACL tear, Ricky Rubio.
Brace yourself Bulls fans, Rubio's legs are letting him down. In his 41 games he played in his rookie season, Rubio didn't exactly shoot lights out for a point guard. He shot a dim 37% from the field, with an faint overall True Shooting percentage of 47%. This season in 14 games since coming back from an ACL tear last March, he's missed all 11 three pointers he's taken, averaging three fewer assists compared to last years' eight, missed four games recently due to back spasms from what some say is him overcompensating with the top half of his body, and he's only shooting 24% in totality.
Everyone reacts differently to ACL tears; while some lead the NFL in rushing a year later, others struggle getting playing time for the depleted Timberwolves.
Take two steps back to take a giant step forward.
In the offseason it sounded as if the Bulls organization was calling this season a wash. The irreplaceable Bench Mob was replaced with a gaggle of one year deals for guys like Robinson and Belinelli. The higher ups were banking on roster holdovers like Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson to take the next step in their maturation process. The heavy lifting offensively was assumed to all be done by Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. At first glance it seemed like the Bulls were poised for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, but now all things have coalesced and management's cap-flexibility gambles are starting to pay off. Bringing Rose back into the fold maybe the biggest all-in wager the GMs make in their professional careers. Things like Rose's familiarity with the system and the starters, and not having to score as much as he used to to help his team win, has stacked the odds in the Bulls' favor.
Rose's first few months back won't be pretty as he re-acclimates himself with him and his new game. Rose will work hard to fix what he's doing wrong, but ultimately it'll seem that trust and time will heal all his wounds.
It gets better.
The current underdog Bulls we've all have grown accustomed to rooting for will also have a hard time getting used to Rose. These contemporary Bulls are going to lose some regular season games reconciling Rose with their rotation, but what's most important is that these Bulls won't beat Miami or the top teams in the Western Conference in a playoff series without him. I'm fine with sacrifice seeding for the purpose of putting Rose in the big game situations that the team is going to count on him on performing well in, come April and May.
It's OK to be nervous, aghast, or utopian on Rose's restoration. Whatever you feel is justified. Take a break on with the worry and wonderment. Enjoy the as-is roster of the "loveable losers" Bulls that keep on winning while featuring a new unsung hero every night. When Rose is back, there's no turning back on the way things were, which is as good as it's going to get.