The Rose Chronicles: Return Part III


Alexander Aghayere

Halftime from the Sideline

By Copy Chief

The story has been told time and time again, and the injuries have occurred time and time again, but it’s not about how many times Derrick fell. 

It’s about how many times Derrick rose.

Criticism was abundant when he tore his left ACL in the first game of the first round of the 2011–2012 playoffs and did not play at all for the next 17 months. It was just as abundant, if not more so, when he tore the meniscus in his right knee 10 games into the 2013–2014 season after his long-awaited, highly commercialized “return.”

There was talk of him being injury-plagued and never returning to “vintage Rose.” Then he came back in 2014 and gradually increased the quality of his play until reinjuring his right knee.

It needs to be said, and it needs to be said clearly: Derrick Rose is not washed up. He is not over. He should not be traded any time soon, and I don’t think he will be, either.

He took more jump shots than layups when he came back against the Orlando Magic on April 8 from a 20-game absence, but that does not mean he was afraid. It does not mean he is “never going to be the old Derrick Rose.” 

It was his first game back after his third knee injury. There is no reason to go full throttle against a subpar team after finally being cleared to play a week before the playoffs. Fans and critics who complain about his performance this year have a point, but it is certainly not irrefutable. 

He settled for jump shots earlier in the season, and his shooting performance was short of stellar, but it is all part of a rehabilitation program that extended into the regular season.

The time he spent not playing in the league during the last four years was time he spent developing his skills and improving himself for a return (again and again), but competing at game speed in the NBA is different than scrimmaging in practice. 

Rose said repeatedly this season that he and the rest of the Chicago Bulls are just trying to find a rhythm. That is the most important goal for a team of this caliber trying to win a championship in what appears to be a short window of opportunity—this year and the next. 

He is not wrong. Rather, fans are understandably impatient. It seemed he had a chance to push the team to a championship in 2011 had he not gotten injured.

Still, this is a former MVP who is still in his prime. He has gotten physically stronger in the last four years, and it is important to understand that his injuries are not a matter of frailty. Non-contact injuries such as torn ACLs and torn menisci say little to nothing about him as a player. 

Even after what Rose has been through, he still showed against the Magic that he can blow by defenders at will. Despite three knee surgeries, team defenses still crumble when he drives to the basket, forcing players to help the man guarding him because he truly is too big, too fast, too strong and too good for most guards to defend.