No one wants Derrick Rose to rush back. Anyone who cares has heard about the bumpy road to recovery from constructive surgery on a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament. Everyone in the room at Rush University Medical Center Tuesday could sense a feel-good, upbeat vibe put out by the Chicago Bulls and their team physician, Brian Cole, who performed the surgery on Saturday.
The clock on Rose’s return as the Bulls’ franchise player and Chicago’s favorite athlete officially has begun to tick. Fans might even want to synchronize their watches if they have a countdown mode – and they can set it that high.
Time till Rose’s Return: 8,688 hours. That’s knocking off 72 from the moment Cole stitched up Rose’s left knee.
And that is 362 days or just shy of 12 months, the cautious end of Rose’s projected recovery range as voiced by Cole Tuesday. Last we checked here at Hang Time HQ, 12 months is just about equivalent to … (gulp) … One. Year.
“Sometimes shorter, sometimes longer,” Cole told a group of Chicago media. “It could take him more than a year to be back to pre-surgery level of performance.”
And this: “It’s impossible to predict tomorrow. Statistically, he should be that player and then some. That doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed.”
Smile. Frown. Smile. Frown. The way Cole balanced each encouraging statement with something more cautionary, you’d expect half of the NBA fans in the Windy City to tear a facial ligament.
After Rose suffered the devastating injury on April 28 in the playoff opener against Philadelphia, the early prognosis was for a layoff lasting six to nine months. Now it’s eight to 12, and even if Rose shaves some time off that sentence for good rehab behavior, that’s a big number for people who care about him and his team to absorb.
Cole said that, in a best-case scenario, the 2011 NBA MVP might be able to return in January or February. That would change everything and, if all went well, permanently turn those frowns upside down.
But the doctor also said: “He could miss the entire season.”
Not to worry, a member of Rose’s family told the Chicago Tribune over the weekend. Keep in mind, of course, that Reggie Rose doesn’t even play a doctor on TV:
“He’s not sitting out the entire (2012-2013) year,” Reggie said. “We’re just going to bring him back slowly. I think the biggest thing to do is not put a time limit on it, just when he feels comfortable. When he comes back, he’s got to learn how to trust his body. I tore my ACL in college also. So it’s him learning how to trust his body.”
Still, if Reggie’s little brother does play his next game for the Bulls at the start of the 2013-14 season, so much around him will have changed. Richard Hamilton – the guy signed in December to lighten Rose’s scoring load — might be gone, the Bulls declining to pick up the third year of his contract for a wing player approaching his 36th birthday.
Forward Carlos Boozer will be nearing 32, what little lift that’s left in his game nearly gone. Teammates such as Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson might be elsewhere due to business decisions, theirs or the clubs’. Someone will have had to main the point guard spot in 2012-13, so that guy will either be a stop-gap solution or someone who might bristle at a new backup role.
Coach Tom Thibodeau probably won’t have led his team to the NBA’s best regular season record for a third straight season and – let’s be honest – there’s no assurance Chicago would even qualify for the playoffs next spring. By April 28, 2013, any notions of a storybook spring return by the point guard might be moot. Thus the 2013-14 possibility.
Bravo to the Bulls, of course, for laying out the reality of Rose’s rehab and timeline, and for not blinking at the difficult time ahead. “Obviously, short-term, we’re going to take a hit,” general manager Gar Forman said. “Our thinking long-term won’t change at all.”
In other words, Rose will be the Bulls’ cornerstone player whenever he is able to play again, and particularly play again at or near his remarkable pre-injury level. That’s to be lauded, at whatever percentage of his former bad self Rose returns. The fans will keep showing up to United Center – they endured the Tim Floyd era, so they can do this time standing on their heads.
But change happens, time marches on (or limps along) and, by the time Rose does come back, there’s no telling whether the Bulls will be able to get the band back together again.