Over the last two years, it’s felt like you couldn’t go anywhere with even the most remote tether to the sports universe without hearing about Derrick Rose’s comeback. Commercials like these didn’t help, particularly when their near-constant loop presaged one season that was missed entirely (’12-’13) and one that saw the youngest MVP in league history play in just 10 games the next season.
It sucked, to be honest, which isn’t to out ourselves as Bulls fans so much as it is to recognize the fact that injuries are awful, and injuries to superstars are more awful still. So now that Rose is officially back, again, we figured the time was right for an examination of the early season of 2014 as it relates to the player who can tip the scales in the Bulls’ overall quality from good to great.
This time last year, Rose had played in six games and was regularly being described as “rusty.” His shot wasn’t there — despite posting an eventual season average of 15 points, 3 rebounds and 4.5 assists, no one would’ve said that this was the Derrick Rose of days of yore. There were flashes, certainly, but for a guy thrust back into playing 30 minutes per game, he didn’t look like he was ready. The general feeling, though, was that he’d tough it out, barrel his way back into adequate shooting, and the Bulls would grind their way to right around 50 wins.
Then, after missing just one game, Rose went down again and was out for the year, and everyone was sad. Not surprised this time, but sad. Michael Redd and Penny Hardaway were used as examples in casual conversation. It was a dark time, and people began to speculate openly about what would happen to Chicago if the city had to face building a championship contender without its All-Star point guard. Then, of course, Rose came back.
In a move that feels all too appropriate, given the various difficulties that the Bulls have had keeping Rose on the floor, the guard has already missed half the games that Chicago has played. Appearing in just four of the eight contests that the team has undergone so far, they’re undefeated with him and have just two losses overall, but it’s a young season and the Bulls are in the East. Rose has also yet to approach the minutes that he played last year, let alone the minutes he was playing during his MVP season (for the completists, that’d be 31 minutes per game last year and 37 in ’10-’11), but he doesn’t look like he’s struggling.
That was never more obvious than in his game against the Detroit Pistons on Monday night, when he looked positively spry. We’ve got the highlights embedded below, and, of course, there are the small sample size fears, but it looks as though his athleticism hasn’t diminished too much, and that might be the most encouraging sign yet.