Long Layoff Over, Rose Returns In Rush

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INDIANAPOLIS
– This so-called feel-good story permeating the Chicago Bulls through the first eight days of the preseason – Derrick Rose coming back from 17 or 47 months away, off doing surgery rehab or covert operations or whatever – has a flip side, of course.

For the Bulls, their fans and basketball enthusiasts in general, it’s a terrific thing, the return of their star and leader. For rival teams and folks in cities where Rose (gasp!) gets booed, another season or two sitting out – to make really, really sure his left knee was healed – would have been just fine.

“I called him this summer to see if he was interested in coaching when Brian Shaw left,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said, teasing, before Saturday’s preseason opener at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the first for Rose in exactly 75 weeks. “I had a position for him if he wanted to retire early and join the coaching ranks. But he declined.”

Actually, Rose did a fair amount of sitting in the Pacers’ gym Saturday but he did even more damage. In three shifts that totaled 20 minutes 26 seconds, the former NBA MVP scored 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting, rushed his way to four turnovers and attacked the paint and the rim as if he were back in his pre-ACL-tear, pre-dinged-up-2011-12 bionic days.

In his first NBA game action since April 28, 2012, the 25-year-old point guard thrilled a bunch of Chicago rooters who drove down and claimed seats in the Fieldhouse, and thrilled another group who were on the floor and on the visitors’ bench.

After Rose raced to a pair of coast-to-coast layups – you half-expected to see the slats of the floor fly up in his wake and hear a Road Runner-esque “beep-beep!” – several smiles and head shakes broke out where the Bulls coaches and reserves were sitting.

“I was like, ‘I don’t remember him being that fast,’ ” said new Bulls swingman Mike Dunleavy, only a Rose chaser till now. “I’m sure he was but it was a great thing to see – even at times when he was going almost too fast and mishandled the ball a little bit. But you can always slow it down.”

After 525 days on the side, Rose returned and was the fastest player on the floor.

“The speed, the quickness but the power to go along with it,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said, unabashed in this man-crush. “That’s what makes him so special and unique. There’s no one like him.”

In his first three seasons as Chicago’s head coach, Thibodeau coached 264 games, regular season and playoffs. He had Rose for 137 of them, none at all in 2012-13. The Bulls were 104-33 in the games Rose played, just 69-58 in the one he didn’t. So  yeah, “with” is better than “without” for Thibodeau.

“You see how he makes the game easier for everybody,” Thibodeau said. “And the speed at which he plays, you’ve got to get accustomed to that too. Some rust, that’s to be expected. But you could see as each minute went by, he got more and more comfortable.”

The baseline ambition for Rose Saturday – and for that matter, Indiana’s Danny Granger, also returning from left knee surgery (just six months ago, in his case) – was a) no re-injury and b) no new injuries. Both the Bull and the Pacer achieved that.

But Rose went beyond that by starting and staying aggressive, by driving into the paint, by attacking Indiana’s bigs Roy Hibbert and David West. He showed a fearlessness that, apparently, only could be restored through a full season’s layoff.

After one breakneck drive to the basket, former NBA big man Antonio Davis – watching from the baseline in his ESPN analyst role – said, “There’s no way he would have come back confident enough to play like that last spring.” That was the elephant in every NBA arena in which the Bulls played over the final months last season, the controversy over Rose’s decision not to test his knee in March or April for a playoff push.

With results like he got against the Pacers, and even a three-steps-forward, one-back progression now, that hubbub might swiftly be forgotten.

“It felt great. It felt normal,” Rose said afterward to a huge media throng by October standards. “I’ve just got to get my feet under me. On certain plays slow down. Turnovers were big tonight because I was going too fast. And my jump shot. I missed two free throws.”

Rose admitted that he was relieved to get this first return game out of the way, allowing him to lock into a pattern now with less apprehension, less anticipation. There will be a series of firsts, sure – first United Center appearance, first regular season game, first clash with the dreaded Miami Heat – but this one was the biggest of the steps remaining in his comeback.

That devastating speed of his, that’s an asset he’ll have working for him, less a liability in timing and turnovers the longer he’s back. “It’s there,” Rose said. “I think I’m more balanced. Just attacking. On defense. Getting around screens. Getting into the ball. Avoiding screens. And trying to get back in front of the man.”

Rose never ran into any hard screens by Indiana, but he did take some rough contact from an open-floor collision with George Hill and a soaring drive smack into Hibbert. Rose landed awkwardly after that one, his legs spread, his right one buckling a little. But he got up to shoot his free throws, no worse for wear. Said after the game his knee was fine, too.

“He’s hard to guard when he’s coming at you like that,” Thibodeau said. “He’s going to get you back on your heels and force the defense to collapse. And it makes the game easy. So it was good to see him as aggressive as he was, but that’s what he’s been doing [in practice].”

It was a hit Rose took on the first day of camp from roster hopeful Dexter Pittman, a former Miami big man, that let him know it was OK to get hit and fall. “I ran into Dex,” Rose said. “He’s a big body and just going up against him, he knocked me. Both of us fell at the same time, actually. I knew then I was ready for a game.”

This time, the contact didn’t come against “friendlies” but against rivals. Rivals with a history, in fact, who want the same thing Rose and the Bulls are chasing. Vogel had said before tipoff the Pacers wouldn’t treat the point guard like a “recovery player.” “The whole summer, from what I hear, he’s been playing at full strength,” the coach said.

But Rose took the knocks without incident. Besides the two full-court dashes, his best moment was a breakout from center court, finishing with a two-handed dunk.

Said Vogel afterward: “Same old Derrick Rose.”

Rose was 5-of-6 in the restricted area but missed the six jumpers or floaters he put up from outside it. Considering how he might have played – tentative, testing from the perimeter, relying on mid- or long-range shots – Rose thriving inside and staying in attack mode was seriously encouraging to Chicago.

“Honestly, the game was so much easier … it’s just an easier game [with him],” Bulls forward Luol Deng said. “We were excited just to be back out there playing with Derrick. I’m so happy for him.”

31 Comments

  1. sports fan says:

    All the Rose haters who bashed Rose for not playing in the spring are eating their words. Rose’s speed & agressiveness completely shows he needed the time off to fully recover.

  2. Pete Medina says:

    Man, it feels amazing to see my favorite player back out there! Derrick Rose has been waiting to pkay, and know that he is back, it is just a great feeling. Unexplainable to him, I just know it. He has worked hard really hard for this moment no that it is here, he wants to dominate the game. Go Derrick Rose!!! I love that dude I’m glad to see him on the court. I read every single article on his comeback, watched every commercial and every video on him, watched every interview, watched all his warm-ups while he’s shooting around, I also started my own collection of Derrick’s clothing and shoes, and finally to have him back on the court it feels amazing. Love you Rose, it is time to blossom. Go D-Rose!!!

  3. Austin says:

    The author is obviously mad at how well Derrick rose and the bulls handled his injury. Every paragraph had something about him missing a whole season. Sit down be quiet and watch Rose progress through the season. Quit hating on him for his time off and write a non biased article.
    #shutup

  4. mee(a)t says:

    And I thought Knicks fans were delusional

  5. Karlo Garcia says:

    Glad DROSE is back :)

  6. Jumppong says:

    Derrick Rose always Humble :) good to see him back hope they will win it all the way

  7. dylan19 says:

    It always a great new to hear those great player stay healthy…

  8. BullsFever says:

    Not sure if you guys got the memo, but let’s compare teams here. Basketball is a team game. Derrick Rose is the MVP of his team, the best team, the Bulls. See you Heat in the East Finals. No one here is pretending that won’t happen. Wade is older, Bosh put up a big 0 in a finals appearance, James will do what he does. 3 peat is not as easy as just having the best player in James. The best team wins the title at the end of playoffs. If ya’ll forgot, Bulls went 62-20 for 2 seasons with a healthy Rose for best team in the regular season. With the Bulls additions and the Heat’s subtractions, it will be a Bulls Championship. Let’s not forget that the Spurs where 2 Leornard FT away from the trophy. I don’t think the question is what will LeBron bring? The question is what will his supporting cast bring? Advantage Chicago.

    • juggernaut says:

      The bulls bench is super suspect rose is back but he is 1 player, noah helps alot but thats it yeah butler showed something in the playoff but its not enough. Miami kept practically the same squad that won 2 years in a row they lose miller but gained Oden and Beasley those 2 helps big time in situatonal n rotation basketball Heats vs Pacers eastern conference finals

  9. Chi-raq says:

    BAHAHAHAHA!! I told all these heat fans with all that wishful thinking “Rose, you won’t be as explosive anymore. It’s all over now, your game is cut in half. So just take a paycut and come with the heat, you will be a great addition”. =/ REALLY??? You don’t understand how we get down, so you could never have another chi-raq soldier. Stop trying to just build an all-star team, and stay true to your team as it is. (the MAIN reason why Jordan reigns supreme, a team of all kinds of people that won with us and practically only three people have ever seen an all-star game)

  10. Jt says:

    All we are saying is that it is good to see D.Rose back on the court and playing the way we are used to him playing. No one cares or is even talking about him being better than Lebron or KD we are just happy he is back. But I guess Miami fans will be Miami fans and will hate on ANYONE that is not on the Heat lol. Either way god to see you back Derrick!

  11. sanjay says:

    it is james time and not rose’s. That is what I meant. And that is the truth!

  12. sanjay says:

    who cares about these non entity practice matches? Rose would do ok with bulls. But he is good for the east!

    The miami heat can only be beaten in paint. The perimeter teams would be murdered! chicago do not need rose in the perimeter per se! But his fans and chicago franchise would be joyous to have him back. The chicago found a young champ like butler, just like leonard for spurs!

    He is not the best player like he claims to be! Lebron wont take that statement likely. It is his time and not rose!
    And thats all I got to say about that!

  13. Scott Seabolt says:

    If not pretty much the same team, and with the east better than when he was playing a year ago in what way does everybody think he will win a championship ? I don’t get why the bulls fans think – oh now he will? Indiana is better- preseason lose people, nets better, Miami the same, even teams like pistons , Washington , New York are better than before? Sorry bulls fans but yes you will win a bunch of games again but again during playoffs will exit before the finals . Least he got his rose shoes to sell

  14. Kobe bryant says:

    Bulls fans please stop comparing him to lebron okay, he is not even better kevin durant, because if you guys lose to the heat you will make the same excuses again. The guy didn’t even looked the same.

  15. JMaine says:

    why dose everyone think D Rose is the answer to L. James. I like D Rose and I’m happy he’s back healthy but like he was b4 ACL tear he will still be Second best to L.James if that I like Rose better then KD thou.

    • The big homie says:

      When I hear “too big, too strong, too fast” I think of King James. Melo even. But this is just the preseason. Let’s see where he && the bulls will be at come mid season. It’s cool that he’s back, but I still LOVE Miami’s chance at a 3peat.

  16. dincablog says:

    Too big, too fast, too strong.

    Gimme that phunk.

    So glad Rose is back and the NBA season is starting.

    Lessgo Bulls!

  17. dincablog says:

    Too big, too fast, too strong.

    WOOOO.

    Gimme that phunk.

    So glad Rose is back and the NBA season is starting.

  18. KingKong says:

    Same old Derrick Rose. LBJ you’ve got competition LOL LOL.

  19. J says:

    its a good thing for him to feel great and play well, but the pre season means nothing.

    • jaykwan says:

      Hardly. If he was lacking in explosiveness, playing tentatively, or hesitant in using that left leg, it would mean quite a lot and raise legitimate concerns about his potency going forward. It is absolutely a positive and meaningful thing that Rose played as Rose has in the past, regardless of the rust.

  20. Paulo says:

    It’s not the “dreaded” Miami Heat. It’s the “hunted.”

  21. Derrick Rose and basketball are finally back. Heck. Yes.