After missing the entire 2012-13 season while rehabilitating his ACL tear, Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose stands as one of the most influential figures of the forthcoming NBA season. If he returns to the form that earned him the 2010-11 MVP and other accolades, the Bulls figure to be a championship contender and the top challenger to the Miami Heat in the East. If he doesn't, Chicago could fall back into the group of impressive yet limited playoff also-rans they joined during Rose's absence. Our Kelly Dwyer got a firsthand look at Rose's preseason return on Saturday and came away with optimism, but the road to full recovery could still be a bumpy one.
However, the early signs are certainly promising. On Monday, the Bulls took on the Memphis Grizzlies in another exhibition contest. Rose performed ably once again, putting up 13 points, three assists, and three steals in 23 minutes in a 106-87 win. But those numbers paled in comparison to this highlight. Following an errant pass from Grizzlies guard Jerryd Bayless, Rose grabbed the loose ball and immediately powered up the court, engaging two defenders and quickly losing them with a fine behind-the-back dribble and explosive leap to finish at the rim. Rose absorbed contact from Jon Leuer and powered through for a simple-looking (though still difficult) and-one basket. It was everything we're used to seeing from Rose and perhaps the best example of his renewed athleticism so far this preseason.
Rose's recovery obviously doesn't hinge on his ability to make one amazing move per game, because injuries typically have more of an effect on the physical impact of that play and the player's ability to recover from it. Still, the mere fact that he can do this without having his knee immediately combust should warm any basketball fan's heart. We're closer to having one of the league's best players back in our lives.