Derrick Rose's rehabilitation from the torn left ACL that ended his 2011-12 season and caused him to miss the entire '12-'13 campaign to date has included multiple milestones in recovery and benchmarks to meet, but over the past month, attention has focused largely on one — overcoming the psychological obstacle that has him feeling uncomfortable with fully trusting his body enough to rejoin the Chicago Bulls despite his doctors' clearances. Back in early March, that obstacle took a specific, tangible form: Rose regaining the ability to "confidently dunk off his left foot in a game situation".
So it might, or might not, be noteworthy that during warmups before the Bulls' Sunday night loss to the Detroit Pistons, Rose did this:
Not a game situation, to be sure, and it's anyone's guess just how confident Rose felt as he made that move to the rim, elevated and threw down with ease. But Rose looking as explosive as we've seen him in about 11 1/2 months can't be a bad thing, right?
Good, bad or indifferent, it doesn't necessarily mean Rose is any closer to returning to Tom Thibodeau's lineup than he was three days ago, or four days ago, or five, or any other day that he's been asked the Bulls' $64,000 question. But the 2010-11 NBA Most Valuable Player did shed a bit of light on the open question of whether he's holding off until he can be the same 110-miles-per-hour, 37-minutes-per-game player he was before the injury. As Rose told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, he'd be open to playing a smaller supporting role if need be:
Derrick Rose disputed the theory he’s waiting until next season to play so that he can return without a minutes limit and said he would keep open the option of returning from knee surgery even during a Bulls’ playoff run.
“Oh, no,” Rose said, when asked if he’d announce he’s sitting out this season. “I’m keeping it open.” [...]
Rose first scrimmaged on Feb. 18 and has said whether he returns is as much a mental hurdle as a physical one at this point. Playing on a minutes limit wouldn’t bother him.
“I wouldn’t mind at all,” he said. “Of course I want to play more. But it’s not that big. I’m going to play whenever I’m ready. I don’t care if it’s 15 or 40 (minutes). I just love the game too much. Like I said, I’m just waiting and praying about it. And hopefully I’ll be out there soon.”
The open-ended approach, waiting, praying and hoping are all familiar phrases for Bulls fans at this point — Rose's chat with Johnson also included old chestnuts like "I’ll play whenever I’m ready to play. Who knows when I’m ready to?" and "I’m going to come back whenever I’m ready." That's got to be frustrating when watching a Bulls team with so many other injured pieces clawing its way through the finish line to a middle-of-the-East playoff seed and seeming in desperate need of the kind of boost (especially on the offensive end) that Rose would offer, even if he's not the 110 percent pedal-to-the-metal Rose of the last four years.
And yet, as Bulls fans now know all too well, their own waiting, praying and hoping won't likely have much bearing on the resolution of this situation. We don't know when Rose will feel comfortable enough in his own skin to take his pregame work out onto the floor in live action, we don't know exactly how big a difference 15 minutes of post-surgery Rose would make for an offensively challenged Bulls team, and we don't know for sure whether it's really worth anybody's while — Rose's, the Bulls', our own — to find out if there remains any chance of screwing things up further. As has been the case for months and months, what we don't know could fill a warehouse.
But we do know that Derrick Rose is looking pretty good dunking off his surgically repaired left leg. If nothing else, that's pretty cool, right?