Derrick Rose is showing signs of improvement from an injury that will put him out of commission for another season. However, like many teams in the league that are led by star players, the Chicago Bulls have had a tough time adjusting to his absence—and there’s no telling how hard the transition back could be.
The changing of the guard at the Chicago Bulls was a difficult transition following the retirement of Michael Jordan back in 1998. Since then, there have been no heirs to the throne of the Windy City. In 2002, Duke University standout Jay Williams was expected to bring stability to the Madhouse, but that decree proved to be an error as he would never return to form after a career-ending accident. Midway through the 2000s, U-Conn’s Ben Gordon and Kansas’ Kirk Hinrich would usher in a new era known as the “Baby Bulls,” but were similarly unable to run after learning how to walk. When all hope seemed lost, the team’s prayers were answered in 2008. The prodigal son had returned to his home in the Chi. The Derrick Rose era had begun.
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It seemed almost designed by fate that the Bulls would end up drawing number one in the lottery to use their pick on the hometown phenom who had made his presence felt in Memphis. Rose came out swinging in his first season as he earned Rookie of the Year honors and led the Bulls (despite their ultimate loss) to possibly the most dramatic first-round NBA playoff series in recent memory against then-defending champions, the Boston Celtics. The following year the Bulls would face another first-round exit at the hands of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. However, in 2010-2011, Rose would prove that the crown is fitted for his head. He rallied the Bulls to an NBA-best 62-20 record—their first 60+ win season since 1997-98—took home the MVP trophy (as the youngest player since LeBron James to earn it) and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
It seemed that the Bulls were on the cusp of dominance once again, but all that changed on game one of the 2012 playoffs when Rose tore the ACL in his left knee. Despite a grueling rehab process, his health and playing status were questioned even after Rose took the prescribed amount of time off. It would cost him the entire 2012-13 season to mount a comeback. Unfortunately, his following 2013-14 campaign would be short-lived, as Rose would come to injure his right knee this time, putting him out of commission once again. Which brings us to his current junction.
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Rose has proven himself to be a cornerstone of the Bulls franchise over the past six years. His absence affects what happens on the court and even off the court. It forces players to fill in tasks that they weren’t asked to perform before. It forces the coaching staff to readjust and create different formations. It also affects decisions that need to be made in the front office. Amidst all of what has transpired, will it mean something once Rose returns? Will he be the high-flyer that we’ve marveled at? Does he still have the ankle-breaking abilities that rival a younger Allen Iverson? And, most importantly, can he return to MVP form?
Optimists say yes, but the pessimists and critics alike say that he’s reached his peak too early, even going as far as comparing Rose to Grant Hill. While it may come across as harsh to be writing a career obituary for a man who’s still kicking, the comparison is not far off. With a player like Rose (who particularly relies on speed, agility and overall athleticism), it’s extremely difficult to say that he will be 100 per cent once he returns.
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If you analyze Rose’s play closely, you’ll notice how much torque he puts into his pivot and cut motions while he’s in action. The ferocity he exudes when driving to the basket with the excessive amount of bumps he takes as he’s in the paint is also something to take heed of. Most troubling is the amount of pressure that weighs on him from a physical standpoint. Rose is called upon to be the Bull’s scoring leader, assist leader, transition starter—virtually everything short of manning the Gatorade stations. This has been a troubling issue that even his older brother has had the gumption of pointing out to the press, noting that the team needs to get players that can create their own shots to alleviate some of Rose’s burden.
However, there is always an upside, and that upside is a number: 25. Rose is still only 25 years old, and with no record of extreme medical conditions as it pertains to his lower body to boot. With the millions of dollars that the Bulls are throwing his way (he accounts for 30 per cent of their salary cap), it’s only right to assume that Rose is training with the best in order to get back into his All-Star groove. In the same breath, should the Bulls pair Rose up with a ball-handler who’s more than capable of finding his own offence, then it’s not totally out of the question to say Rose will at least become a household name.
Overall, it’s important that Rose (and everyone else involved for that matter) understand that the game should be coming to him and that it will do no good if he forces it. As it currently stands, until Rose comes back to lead his kingdom, the throne will remain vacant.