The Chicago Bulls' 2012-13 season has always been divided into two parts: the periods before and after Derrick Rose returns from the ACL tear that knocked him out of the 2012 playoffs after just one game. The idea was that the Bulls would perform well enough to get themselves into position for a playoff spot, integrate Rose back into the fold in the last few months of the season, and become a squad far more dangerous than their seeding in the postseason.
So far, that plan has gone well: the Bulls are 19-14 and currently sit fifth in the not-particularly-deep East. Nevertheless, the ultimate success of the season depends on Rose's ability to return from injury. And it looks like that moment is becoming closer, because Rose is back as an occasional participant in practices — and taking some contact while doing so. From Joe Cowley for the Chicago Sun-Times (via SLAM):
Coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose took part in a controlled practice and got in some one-on-one work. If all goes well in this step of the rehab, it’s full practice time with full contact next.
"Basically, he's doing what we call predictable contact," Thibodeau said. "Knowing what's coming. So he's handled that part great. He's done a little one-on-one. That's coming around, but everyone has to be patient. The next step will be a regular practice, and he hasn't done that yet. Once he does that, then you know he's getting closer."
As far as a timetable on when that could take place, Thibodeau was adamant about not skipping steps.
"We've got to feel good about this," Thibodeau said. "The most important thing is he's got to feel good about it. It's the type of injury that you have to be patient, and he's handling his part great. He's upbeat, he's doing his rehab daily, and that's his entire focus.’’
So, the Bulls and Rose don't have a hopeful return date set (at least in public), because they want to make sure that Rose takes to each step of the recovery and doesn't force a comeback just because the calendar says that's when he's supposed to. But this news is pretty clearly a great thing for everyone around the Bulls. If Rose is already taking some form of contact, then it stands to reason he's reacclimatizing himself to real basketball scenarios. Soon enough, he'll probably start injecting some spontaneity into his workouts. At that point, he really won't be too far off from returning to full practices and games.
It's very likely that Rose will need substantial time to get back to 100 percent. Even if he makes Chicago a tougher out in the playoffs, it's possible they won't be quite like a covert No. 1 seed because he won't be the same player who got them to that level in past seasons. However, Rose is by all accounts tackling his rehab with serious intensity. It wouldn't be the most shocking thing in the world if he came back and changed the postseason picture considerably.
Given the circumstances, Rose's recovery seems to be going very well, in large part because the Bulls are putting themselves in a position for his return to be meaningful. Frankly, I didn't agree with that approach to the season — I thought they should have gracefully tanked and positioned themselves to add a potential elite scorer in the draft to take some pressure off Rose moving forward. But their plan is working better, and they now have a chance to do a lot of damage if things continue to break their way.
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