Derrick Rose readies himself for 10-12 more months of this [stuff]. (Getty Images)
Tim Hardaway was amongst the initial wave of NBA players that returned from ACL tears to approximate their pre-injury play. One could argue that Hardaway was the first post-tear player to actually improve on his play following what was once a career-ending surgery, as previous vets like Bernard King and Danny Manning clearly had lost a full step after working back toward health. Hardaway, a Chicago native that missed the entire 1993-94 season after tearing his knee in practice, recently reached out to fellow Chicago-native and Bulls guard Derrick Rose in the midst of Rose's arduous rehabilitation from an ACL tear, while also offering some good news to Bulls fans along the way about Rose's return that they may not have initially considered.
Hardaway, whose niece is apparently dating Rose, told the Chicago Sun-Times' Neil Hayes that Rose's jump shot might be a whole lot better when he returns to complete and full health. Mainly because Rose has no other choice but to work on his form, while he's stuck in rehab. Here's Tim, from the Sun-Times:
''He can only do three things,'' said former NBA point guard Tim Hardaway, who missed the 1993-94 season after suffering a similar injury. ''He can dribble — not run and dribble, just dribble walking up and down the court; he can shoot a bunch of free throws; and he can shoot a bunch of set shots like he's playing H-O-R-S-E every day, all day.
''But that's going to make him better. If you shoot 1,000 jump shots a day, 1,000 free throws a day, you're going to get better. That made my shot better. It really made my jump shot and free-throw percentage better.''
Hardaway's knuckleball jump did improve, following his return in 1994-95, and his 3-point percentage jumped a tick and a half from 34.2 percent before the injury to 35.9 afterwards, though that ascension was tempered a bit by the knowledge that he was working with the shortened 3-point line for his first three seasons back. His free-throw percentage also increased following the injury, though his overall shooting numbers dipped as Hardaway became more and more reliant on the 3-point bomb to do his damage — shooting a whopping seven, then eight, then nearly nine 3-pointers per 36 minutes in his final three seasons.
Of course, this speaks to the worrying aspects of where Rose's career can go. Hardaway was a ball-handling innovator in his first four NBA seasons, mastering the crossover and inside-out dribble in an era that allowed defenders to basically shove with two hands any point guard that dared blow past you. By age 32, though, he was more or less done as a penetrator; though this could be just as much a function of his age and conditioning issues as it was his time spent on the shelf with an ACL tear.
Rose seemed to remedy his 3-point issues during his the middle part of his MVP season in 2010-11, but that was only a half-season blip sandwiched between two terrible bursts of long range shooting to begin and end that particular year. Overall, he's been decidedly below average at 31 percent in his career. His mid-range jumper is sound, but it's the bomb that could really take Derrick to another level.
And, as Hardaway and Hayes point out, it'll take Derrick quite a lot of time before he reaches the last spring's "level," sadly. From the Sun-Times:
''Next year is going to be very hard for him,'' Hardaway said. ''I've been there. It was very hard for me. It's hard to accept.''
Hardaway said it took him 11 months before he could play in an NBA game and another full year before he felt like his old self. Technology has improved and rehabilitation techniques have advanced, but Hardaway said he doesn't think the timeline has changed much.
''My biggest thing was getting my head and knee on the same page, so I could do the same things I did before the injury — doing the crossover, exploding to the basket, not being afraid to lay the ball up over a big guy,'' he said. ''I had to get to a point where I didn't fear leaping off my left leg. That was the biggest challenge I had to overcome. It's something you just have to go out and do.''
This is a long way of saying that it's going to be a while, Bulls fans.
That silver lining is legitimate, though. Almost any NBA player will tell you that individual practice time is at a premium in this league. Between the travel, games, shootarounds and team practices players that receive starter's minutes rarely get a chance to take a significant chunk of time to work on their individual games. Without excusing a few months off, it's more or less recommended that players not attempt to work strenuously through the summer, and to mind their practice court minutes smartly during the regular season. Toss in Derrick's status as a member of Team USA, and you can see why Rose's unprecedented "time off" could lead to something significant.
It may have derailed Chicago's championship hopes. It may have allowed the team to essentially take the next two seasons off. And it might be a scar Derrick Rose never gets over, fearful every time he plants on that surgically repaired leg.
This injury could have a side benefit, though. Time off to solely focus on his greatest weakness, in the years before he enters his prime, all on his team's (not some high school, AAU or college squad's) significant dime. It's a reach, but it's all we've got right now.
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