Yes, it was against the Philadelphia 76ers, and yes, the Sixers were playing without their best player in Nerlens Noel, but the Chicago Bulls looked great on Saturday evening. Not only did the team win to keep pace in the race for the third seed, but Derrick Rose also easily had his best game since his return from knee surgery earlier in the week.
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Rose scored 22 points on 19 shots, he dished eight assists and pulled in six rebounds. Most importantly, the bounce appeared to be back.
Speaking to reporters prior to Monday’s important game against the Brooklyn Nets, Rose credited his six-week rehab as the reason for the bounce, while giving us some insight into what probably was a rather dark winter for the 2011 MVP:
"Hell," Rose said when asked what the last six weeks were like. "Because you got to do rehab over again. Waking up at 7:30 every day and being there two hours before practice, beating everybody to the training room when you arrive to a city. You have to do two or three workouts every day. So the game, that’s kind of easy. For sure it’s easy."
The last two years have not been easy for Derrick Rose.
We’re nearing the two-year anniversary of Rose’s initial left ACL tear, an injury that knocked him out of what could have been his first championship season (the Bulls tied for the best record in the NBA in 2011-12), and one that laid him out for the entirety of 2012-13. Many criticized Rose for sitting out a whole season, noting that other ACL tear sufferers had returned to action weeks earlier than Rose, but Derrick Rose was not and will never be a typical NBA player – ex-MVPs aren’t usually put into that particular position, they’re not allowed on-court baby steps.
Rose’s 2013-14 comeback was cut short due to a torn right meniscus just ten games into the season, a season that saw Rose struggle mightily on both ends of the court. Meniscus tears often lead to persistent knee pain and follow-up surgeries (Russell Westbrook and Eric Bledsoe have undergone several over the last two years), which made Derrick Rose’s operation in late February as expected as it was frightening.
The point guard is returning to action with just a few games to go before the regular season ends, in a desperate bid to establish some form of continuity with a Bulls rotation that is healthy on paper (forward/center Joakim Noah will play each game, but he is clearly far from one hundred percent). Monday’s game will mark the penultimate contest of the team’s regular season, and even the relative familiarity of the playoff setup might not provide the Bulls with the certainty they need to make an impact in the East.
The dark part is over, though. At least Rose has that.
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