Mental Side of Rose’s Rehabilitation, Comeback Always Loomed Large


Ten months to the day since Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose had the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, he said he physically is capable of playing again.

Mentally? That’s different.

Rose spoke with Bulls beat reporters Tuesday, their second consecutive off day in Los Angeles, prepping for their game at Sacramento Wednesday night. That wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal – except that the strategy of keeping him away from microphones and recorders since his devastating leg injury in Game 1 of the playoffs last spring is responsible for a lot of the recent and needless drama around the one-time MVP point guard.

Had Rose worked with the Bulls to provide brief, periodic updates – say, monthly – on his rehab, his physical progress and his feelings about it all, rumors and speculation wouldn’t have had any vacuum to fill. Fans and media would have heard Rose’s views on the Bulls’ exploits without him, and management’s roster-building, directly from him. The team wouldn’t have had to make it known – whether leaked or more innocently confirmed – via an unnamed source that Bulls medical personnel had signed off on the physical part of Rose’s recovery and that he was at no greater risk of re-injury than of the initial ACL tear.

Instead, Rose was kept at arm’s length from actual communication. A stray USA Today story bubbled up in February, followed a few days later by a frenzied, visitors dressing room huddle in Boston and, lately, a couple of quick chats relayed by network sideline reporters.

All those things did were arouse suspicions, dial up frustrations and muddy the uncertainty on all sides.

So this was better, this brief session in L.A. Even if the news was neutral at best.

Bottom line: Rose might feel ready, but that doesn’t mean he feels ready. This is about his head as much as his knee. As Nick Friedell of reported:

“I think I can do everything, it’s just me having the confidence to do it,” Rose said before practice. “Just me feeling normal.”

Rose tore his ACL on April 28 and underwent surgery on May 12.

“I really don’t know [about a return this season],” Rose said. “I’m just like you all where I’m waiting till that day where I feel normal.

“Until then I would just wait. I haven’t had any pressure from the organization and no one else to push me to go out there and play. My teammates have been doing great with just playing hard for me. They’re still out there playing hard, fighting, so that’s a good sign and we’re winning games, so I’m not worried about anything right now.”

Rose also said there is no date beyond which he would consider it too late to return this season – which probably isn’t realistic, as we explained here. Anything that would leave too short of a runway before the postseason – for the Bulls and Rose to reacquaint fully – could end up as more of a distraction or disruption. Weighing that possible outcome against five or six more months of prep work, rust-flaking and trust-building in the knee, would seem an easy choice.

As for acknowledging that this now is a mental challenge, shame on anyone who translates that as some sort of weakness on Rose’s part. An athlete playing on instinct, with abandon, without undue concern for his fitness or limitations, is at the heart of sports’ appeal. Rose’s situation is complicated by the load he carried for Chicago prior to his injury, as their lone superstar and bailout player at crunch time.

Combine that with the fact that he never has had to be anything less than marvelous on a basketball court – never faced a minutes leash, never doubted his physical tools – and  getting back to that confident place he needs to be is no small trek.

If the worst-case scenario for the Bulls and their fans, shaped by the rumors, was an unhappy and unrealistic Rose, intentionally holding back because he’s skeptical the team could go deep into the playoffs, the best-case scenario now appears to be: Rose coming off an exposure to Kryptonite, not quite able to summon his powers yet, feeling out of sync and maybe even, sincerely, a little scared.

Either of those could keep him out till October (which, had they staked out that likelihood from the start, would be going down fine now).

See how much better it is, though, with communication?


  1. Jp says:

    I have has my left knee reconstructed after a very similar injury that rose had. I complete acl tear.

    That “normal” feeling he is talking about unfortunately won’t be back until about the 12 month mark at a minimum.

    The only way it can really be explained is right now he still doesn’t feel like he is walking around on his own leg. Its more then likely still a little sore in the mornings at 10 months.

    Like others have said, this is a major injury. With the style of play rose has, without that knee at 100% his come back would be a complete let down.

    We need him flying through the air… not favoring his sore knee.

    Rose your doing the right thing. Take it slow and come back when your 100% ready.

  2. traviemacoy says:

    I think he should play lesser minutes in time for playoffs. as it is now he is just scared that even his return cant stop the Miami onslaught. im not a heat fan but for some reason i give my respect to them for that run. i have ACL as well and it took me only 6 months to play in tip top shape again. it is all pychological c’mon even kobe had a surgery in his knees but look at him now. wade etc etc. what am saying is taht he needs to feel the game again for him to comeback in shape in no time.

  3. ko0kiE says:

    I wonder if he feels the Bulls have a chance for a championship run or not.. coming back to lead the the Bulls to a second round exit can’t be his goal.. The Return wouldn’t be that great… but maybe with some roster changing (i.e. finally get a 3-point shooter who can defend.. maybe try to lure back thabo sefolosha) they are better positioned next year..

  4. Rick says:

    If he’s cleared for take off, he’d better damn well LAUNCH. Watching from the sidelines is only going to make his anxiety and mental hurdle gain strength in his mind and make it that much harder to overcome. Would be absolutely tragic to see Rose become Chicago’s Royce White.

  5. W/E says:

    Rose is scared, he is a huge dissapointment

  6. gregar says:

    i know the nba doctors doesn’t always have the players best interest in mind look at all the players that injury plagued there career. most resent greg oden doctors keep clearing him to play and every time he went out there he injured something else. derrick rose should wait as long as he wants to come back because at the end of the day its his body and choice that he has to live with for the rest of his life. the body has a funny way of compensating for injury’s which in turn causes undo stress on the health muscle weakening it and making it prone to injury yes the muscle healed but it takes time for the body to restore balance if ever.another factor derrick rose is dealing with is hes never been injured like this before so naturally he doesnt know what to expect

  7. Is What It Is says:

    All im going to say is Do what you got to do, whatever choice you make rather to come back this year or next year.. Im still going to be a bulls fan!

  8. Schemer21 says:

    Look, the guy isn’t ready to come back yet mentally. Is that so hard to believe? I mean, this is major surgery that he is working his way back from. I’m a Knicks fan, but everyone would love to see the type of fairy tale story where he returns for the playoffs and leads the team to a championship. That is never going to happen. If he returned tomorrow there would be a transition period where the dynamic of the team would have to change completely. He would also have his own battles mentally, he won’t initially be the same explosive player he was. Not because he can’t be, he’s been cleared medically, but because he is going to be hesitant initially until he learns to trust that his knee is back 100%. Anyway, nobody is getting out of the east this year with Miami playing the way they are. So why rush back? Write this season off as a season without your franchise player, one in which the other guys had to step up more and grow more, and come back stronger collectively next season.
    Anyway, i’ve rushed back from injuries all my life, tonnes of them, (not that i play at any kind of level, I’ve played internationally but that’s it) because mentally they never effected me. I’ve never had a torn ACL but I’ve had fractures, torn ligaments, breaks. Ive torn the ligaments in my ankles 26 times between the 2 ankles. What have i got to show for it? Arthritis in my ankles, knees, hands, elbow and hip. I’m 32 years old. Like I said, I’m a Knicks fan but this league is built on the best players in the world and i hope i’m watching D Rose play well beyond the age of 32.

  9. Jeffrey says:

    i say wait until october. what’s one season missed compared to another 10 years he’ll play as an all-star. He can spend the next 6 months training, gaining back his confidence, make a huge comeback and unanimously win another mvp

  10. chubb says:

    He can still contribute at 80% so why doesn’t he? Either he’s not even there or he’s selfish.

  11. Lol says:

    There’s no rush come back strong next season. You don’t want to be a T-Mac or a Brandon Roy, penny hardaway amare stoudamire all these guys could have been legendary with there talent but they never fully healed and now look at them. Better yet look at Dwight the most dominant center in the game back from back surgery last summer and he still doesn’t look good look at how people look at him and his effectiveness they’ll look at rose the same way. They don’t care about rose, needs to care for himself

  12. T says:

    It’s funny to read the negative opinions of ppl who’ve never torn an ACL. Not only did D. Rose tear his ACL, he tore it in his dominate jumping knee. Ppl who’ve torn their ACL understand exactly what he’s going through and understand. Every knee is different. Not everyone can be Adrian Peterson.

    This is a MAJOR surgery. There’s a reason it’s called “reconstructive” knee surgery. It takes two full years to heal completely. D. Rose has attacked his rehab. Now, let him get comfortable enough trusting the knee to get out on the floor.

  13. Atlanta Hawkys says:

    He hasn’t returned because their is no point. The Heat have already claimed this champion ship. His return will have no significance which will undermine his impact on the team. Next season he can return and less criticism with a fresh start.

  14. muzz says:

    afl footballers in australia play after 9 months but i guess there not little whiny b…. needs to play to feel normal or he will be waiting for ever!! the tranxition from traing to playing is just like learning to walk and not limping when you get off crutches.. its just a mental thing!! and im saying this from personal experience from doing doing my knee..

  15. Hero says:

    Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.

  16. yunaks_22 says:

    wait next season………for a 110% recovery….it might be aggravated again then loose another one season……….long way to go man still young

  17. Paulo says:

    that is the best thing to do, don’t rush, take your time DRose, I know exactly how it feels, It took 2years for me to feel comfortable with my ACL reconstructed right knee. But I”m sure it will be much sooner for DRose because of the more complex and advanced type of therapy that was given by his doctors.

  18. Everyone thinks they know everything says:

    None of you obviously tore your ACL playing a high level of basketball, when your play basketball just on your instincts driving to the basket and your body naturally wants cut a certain direction but your head wants to refrain putting pressure on that knee is tough.

    It’s not like bulls are going to beat heats in the ECF anyways, just take your time and build drafts and team chemistry for next year

  19. Jimmy says:

    People need to cut D Rose some slack. His game relies heavily on athleticism, if he isn’t confident enough in his knee to return this season, then he should just sit it out and come back, bigger, better and stronger next season. He’s got way too much too lose if he comes back now, and what is there to gain? The bulls aren’t going to make much of a playoff run. Come back next season Rose, and show us what it’s all about.

  20. JBoogie says:

    Rose is getting paid too much money to b talking about feelings. If he is medically cleared to play then he should b playing. He is scared to play obviously becasue of the severity of his injury. And he realizes that the bulls have no legitimate chance or winning a championship this year. He is letting fans and an organization that has alot of faith in him down. All over a bruised ego….

    • HARDHOOPER says:

      You sound real crazy right now man. Explain how his ego is bruised, please. You dont become the youngest MVP EVER if you put your self before your team…

  21. Bo Sports says:

    He should play. There’s just no other way for him to overcome the mental hurdles of recovering from a serious injury than to get his body back to doing what it did before the injury. Lead the body and the mind will follow.

  22. TT says:

    He is afraid of playing for the wrong coach. He’s gonna tear his ACL again if he ever plays for Tom Thibodeau!! Remember who to blame, BULLS FANS!!!

    • Bull Down Under says:

      I really hope you’re joking, Rose’s injury was caused by the way in which he landed, not in anyway due to wear and tear from too many minutes, Thibodeau was trying to let Rose get the most out of the way he was playing that game in the hope that it would role through the rest of the playoffs and result in a championship, which i believe it very easily could of if Rose had not gone down.
      You’re also talking about a man that has the bulls sitting 2 games outside of the top 4 in the east without their best player and no consistent option at the point, Hinrich is injured more often than he is healthy and Nate Robinson will always be Nate Robinson.
      Don’t count the Bulls out just yet, if Rose returns and can round into form quickly there’s no limit to how far they can go

      • Game Time says:

        Might not have been wear and tear, but Bulls were up 12pts with 1:12. He should have taken him out at two minutes.

  23. Styx says:

    I want him to come back next season. He shouldn’t force a playoff run, he will obviously be a bit rusty after not playing for about a year. If he is gonna come back he will need some games to get back to normal. Sacrifice those games in the next season.

  24. HMH says:

    I tore my right ACL, and I can say it definitely takes longer for your head to feel like its old self than your body….

  25. Brad says:

    I hope he doesn’t comeback this year…whats the point…The bulls aren’t going to make a big run this year. Get strong Derrick, have the summer off to get even stronger and comeback ready to go for training camp. Fresh Physically and Mentally!

    Best of luck Derrick…true Champion!

  26. Bok says:

    Follow your gut feeling. If you feel it’s better for the Bulls that you take precautionary steps, so be it. You’re your own man, don’t feel pressured. Good luck D-Rose.

  27. Rose says:

    Derrick pls return with u it’s championship

  28. carlo says:

    man, go and play now.. maybe 5-10 minutes per game and get ready on play-offs.. the doctors has cleared you to play already..

  29. BlackDove- says:

    best of luck to this guy I hope he returns to play better then his mvp season. so long as his team doesn’t cause harm to my knickerbockers lol

  30. Wow I hope he comes back strong

  31. Disappointed says:

    He isn’t playing because of his confidence? Really? How do you expect to get your confidence back if you don’t play? He isn’t just going to magically wake up one day and suddenly feel confident enough to play. If he’s healthy he should play. Not major minutes but let him come off the bench and play minor minutes and help him get actual confidence and also helps him get back into the flow of the game. Right now he needs to be a man and realize you don’t gain confidence by avoiding what you have to do. He’s cleared to play so he should play, even if it’s just a little bit at a time.

    • Dom says:

      Yeah i agree with you. He should build up his confidence coming off the bench and playing small minutes. Then gradually increase his minutes ’till hes 100%. I reckon this would be a great boost for him, the team and the fans. Also it would allow him to knock off the rust just in time for the playoffs. Keep in mind that a healthy bullls team can make a deep playoffs run 🙂

      • HARDHOOPER says:

        Hes building up his confidence by participating in FULL CONTACT practice. Let him be the judge of whats best for his body, career and life. If he does come back befor his head is truly into it and gets injured again, everyones just gunna say he should have waited. Im as anxious as anyone to see that man play, i feel hes the best little guard since Iverson. But i want to be able to see him play for a long career and not risk that by coming back too soon.

      • chubb says:

        ….but he wanted to be 110%. In other words, he won’t be back in this life time.

      • Extraordinaire says:

        Exactly!!! Amare was cleared to play… Some of you dudes have never played before.

        I’ve seen countless ACLs that ended up leaving the player never the same.

        Take into account that he does so much for that team.

        He’s better off waiting for training camp next year and starting fresh.

        No way will he we in 3/4 season or playoff form (shape or timing). And oh yeah… Playoff confidence.

        Next time you visit the site look at what Miami is doing now. That’s playoff intensity.

        Some of you guys sound like fans who buy jerseys and posters and know nothing about basketball.

        We are not taking Iman Shumpert or Ricky Rubio who are just role players for their team.

        We are talking D-Rose. Healthy and 110% he gives anyone in the league a run for their money!!

    • Kevin says:

      Amare Stoudamire was cleared also – see where he is now. You cant trust these team doctors. come back when u r ready D rose

  32. cp10 says:

    ACL tears are serious injuries for a normal person, much less who plays professional sports for a living. My 0.02.

  33. d rose's mama says:

    d rose u play this instant. this is your momma…u better listen to me. remember that favor u promised me!!! and yes for all u doubters i am rose’s momma call me 344-254-1923

  34. zach says:

    i think he will be back in the playoffs.. trust me! he is just resting it in time for the playoffs.. Good job Chicago for just resting ur MVP just in time for the playoffs…

  35. Adam Speilberg says:

    Rose is not a quitter! He is a great warrior… Oh wait, we’re talking about Jalen, aren’t we?