Derrick Rose spoke to the media on Thursday for the first time since suffering a tear to the medial meniscus in his right knee during a Nov. 22 game against the Portland Trail Blazers. (He kind of had to; there's a rule about it now.) And while the Chicago Bulls announced three days after he went down that their starting point guard would miss the remainder of the 2013-14 campaign, in his first public comments since his injury, the 2010-11 NBA Most Valuable Player refused to completely rule out a return this season.
"If I'm healthy and the situation is right, I will be back playing," Rose said Thursday when asked if he might return for the playoffs. "If I'm healthy and my meniscus is fully healed, of course I'll be out there playing. But if it's something totally different and the outcome is not how I would want it to be, there's no need."
No, there definitely isn't.
As K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune immediately noted, we're talking about a pretty severe long shot here:
People will jump on DRose leaving crack open about returning for playoffs but was told 2 weeks ago that chance is almost non-existent.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 5, 2013
Rose's statement might irk those who grew tired of the "will he or won't he?" element accompanying the guard's recovery and rehabilitation from surgery to repair the left anterior cruciate ligament he tore during the opening game of the Bulls' 2012 postseason. While New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert, who also suffered a torn left ACL on the same day as Rose, was back on the court less than nine months later, Rose took longer.
Word came trickling out that he was "seeing predictable contact" in practice, then full contact, but he stayed in a suit during games; he said he wanted to be "110 percent" when he came back, a status he hadn't reached by the time his doctor reportedly cleared him to return to work, because while the body might have been ready, Rose hadn't yet cleared the mental hurdle of hitting top speed and exploding off that surgically repaired left knee. By the time the Bulls' 2012-13 season had ended in mid-May, he still hadn't.
The confidence came back this summer, with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau saying his point guard looked great in workouts and Rose telling cable news outlets he felt he was the best player in the NBA between bouts with lowered rims and samurai. It grew during a strong preseason before wavering, though not disappearing, amid a sluggish start to the regular season that saw him average just 15.9 points and 4.3 assists per game on 35.4 percent shooting through 10 games.
Despite the comparatively pedestrian numbers, Rose said Thursday he felt like he "was catching a rhythm of how I used to play" before going down against Portland with what doctors said was a "freak accident" ("I didn't buckle my knee or anything. I paused for a second. I was able to still run a few steps before I couldn't walk. It just happened"). And now he's got to start anew.
"I'm rebuilding my leg all over again, my other leg," Rose said, according to USA TODAY's Sean Highkin. "The process of actually dealing with an injury is kind of frustrating at first, knowing I'm going to miss a long period of time."
How long remains unclear, but Rose said he's much further along at this juncture than he was after his ACL tear, according to Johnson of the Tribune:
"I’m able to put pressure on my leg now," he said. "With the ACL, I wasn’t able to put any pressure on it. ... With this injury, I'm able to get back on the court a lot quicker."
Maybe. Maybe not. We won't know until Rose's rehabilitation progresses, until his doctors can examine how his knee's responding to treatment, and until enough time has passed and enough strength has been rebuilt that a reasonable re-assessment is possible. If, at that time, the medical personnel involved give Rose a clean bill of health, the man himself feels comfortable enough to get back on the court, and the Bulls feel comfortable enough to rescind their "out for the season" proclamation, then great. If none of that stuff comes to pass, well, that's too bad; see you next season, Derrick. Rose is saying that if he is healthy, he will play, and if he's not, he won't — that's about as far as we need to take it right now, it seems. "Selfishness" doesn't need to enter into the discussion at this point.
For his part, Rose remained resolved to return and to do so his way, doubters be damned, according to Seligman:
Rose is in an all-too-familiar spot, trying to recuperate. He has played in just 50 NBA games — 49 in the regular season and that lone playoff game — since the Bulls' run to the conference finals during his MVP season, and at least some fans are wondering if the organization should move on.
"What can I say to that?" Rose said. Then, after a long pause, he added, "You could be a fool if you want to. I know I'm going to be all right." [...]
"I believe that I'm a special player. I think people love the way that I just play. I don't try to impress anyone while I'm playing or anything. I've just got a feel for the game. I know my story is far from done."
Here's the full 21-plus-minute video of Rose's media availability, if you're so inclined:
- - - - - - -