CHICAGO — Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls star whose voice has been as muted during his 14-month rehab from knee surgery as his absence has been glaring and chronicled, knows there is a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk.
Sprinting the sprint, cutting the cut and leaping the leap are all better still in gauging how successful Rose and the team’s medical staff were in getting him back on the court by training camp this fall.
“Me saying it is something totally different,” the Bulls point guard said in a video interview newly posted on the team Web site. “I think me going on the court and showing ’em will let ’em know it was the right decision.”
Rose’s decision not to return for any portion of the 2012-13 schedule was the headline of the Bulls’ season. It defined who and what they were, as well as how far an undermanned, underdog squad could go against the likes of the Nets and the Heat in the playoffs.
It led to an emerging class of Rose critics, too, something new for the Chicago kid who previously had delivered more, sooner, than most expected. Once Rose’s rehab dragged into and through the 8-to-12-month estimate offered in May 2012, questions and even suspicions began to pop up: Is it Rose’s knee or his heart? Doesn’t he see his teammates gutting out huge upsets despite injuries of their own? How much influence does brother Reggie Rose, the player’s agent, and a fleet of adidas marketers have over the kid?
Rose’s presence in Bulls pregame warm-ups, working on his jump shot and moves to the rim, looking pretty healthy, only made people wonder more. And his near-blackout of the media – endorsed or at least tolerated by Chicago management — exacerbated the situation, because in place of Rose’s words, critics reached their own conclusions.
This sitdown with BullsTV might be a reach for the reset button.
“I didn’t want to do anything, to tell you the truth,” Rose said of media interviews in general during his layoff. “I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to rebuild my leg and be around my son [P.J.]. That was time where, me having a son, is huge. … My father wasn’t ever in my life, so he’s first now with anything.”
Scheduling sitdowns with reporters once a month to track his rehab progress wouldn’t have tampered with either his focus or his Dad time, and would have shown respect for the media that otherwise respected Rose’s challenge/ordeal. More so, it would have been good for the fan base that kept buying tickets.
If a little more accountability sapped any drama from adidas’ series of shoe commercials (“The Return”), too bad — Rose didn’t make good on that script anyway. And the Bulls’ media relations experts, working up through vice president John Paxson and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, if necessary, should have spelled that out to Rose.
But this BullsTV interview offers a fresh start. Now, instead of some random sessions with USA Today or furtive Q&A grabs in the postgame locker room in Boston, Rose needs to make himself available to reporters on an occasional basis.
Not every question got asked or answered by Bulls.com, such as:
- How will you simulate game conditions over the summer, when you’re in Chicago, in Los Angeles or on the adidas tour through Serbia and other European destinations?
- Did the criticism of you, your family and your business partners surprise you? Bother you? Change your view of Bulls fans?
- When will you know you can trust — really trust — that left knee?
- How will you cope with what most medical folks say will be ups and downs, good nights and bad, as you work your way back?
- Specifically, how do you think the layoff has benefited your game?
- What adjustments do you plan to make in how you play — or at least, what are you prepared to do if your explosiveness isn’t what it was?
And about a dozen more, ranging from Rose’s views on the Bulls’ draft and free-agent acquisitions to lead assistant coach Ron Adams‘ departure.
Among the questions that did get answered? Here are the highlights:
On missing the entire season: “It was hard. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through in my life. After surgery, when you start runnin’, when you have an injury like this, it’s phases you have to go through. I’m still going through my phases. I’m not done yet. But I think this is the most I’ve ever worked on my craft and the most focused I’ve ever been in my NBA career.”
On not coming back: “I’m not a selfish guy at all, but having this injury and knowing what I had to go through, and being smart, this is something that I had to be selfish with. I couldn’t worry about anyone else but myself and my health.”
On reports that he was “dominant” in practices: “When you’re in practice, of course it’s not like game-like speed unless it’s training camp. Game-like experience is totally different. Where you’ve got strategies, you’ve got this-or-that double-teams – when I play I get double-teamed a lot. We [practice] the same defense that we play in the game, so there wasn’t that many double-teams. So I was able to go around freely. In the game, I wasn’t able to take on that double-team yet.”
On his knee’s progress: “Every day I was working out like my leg is going to feel better. I was pushing myself every day. And trying to take care of my body to be out there as soon as possible. But it didn’t happen.”
On the Bulls’ season without him: “I was very, very impressed. It seemed like they were fighting for me. They saw how hard I was working at practice, just trying to rebuild my leg. All my teammates that were going through injuries, they used to tell me, ‘Don’t rush back’ just because they were going through stuff. So just to hear them say that, they knew I was trying to get back on the court as quickly as possible. They made a good run of it. When they were playing, I would tell them some things that I saw if they didn’t see. I was working with them just to show that I really cared about the team.”
On his close relationship with coach Tom Thibodeau: “With Thibs, we’re super-cool right now. We talk at least a couple times through the week. I missed his call a couple times – he hates when I do that – I’ve got to call him back. But he’s someone who loves the game almost as much as me and that’s pretty hard. If you love basketball more than I do, I have to take off my hat to you.”
On his personal goals for 2013-14: “There’s only one goal and that’s to win a championship.”
It’s good for Rose, for the Bulls and for the fans to have the team’s star and leader accessible again. He needs to stay that way.