Three minutes into the first game of the preseason, Derrick Rose made clear he had something to prove. He received the ball and searched out the biggest Indiana player. Rose simply charged into Roy Hibbert and his 7 feet, 2 inches ( 2.18 meters).
Hibbert took a step back. Rose then took his own rebound and shot again. This wasn’t instinctive, it was more of a statement that he had no fear.
According to conventional wisdom, players who overcome an injury such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament will never be the same. But one reason Rose was absent for a whole season was his aim not to alter his Hollywood-stuntman style – his ability to change direction in midair.
In the 10 games he played this season, Rose did everything to show he wasn’t about to change his style. Was he rusty? Sure, as his 35-percent field-goal success proved, but in no way did he seem limited.
Now his right knee will need at least six months to recuperate, following his decision to heal his meniscus and not remove it. The body might heal, but it remembers. Rose will have to adapt.
He will no longer be able to count on an unworldly gear to dribble past a player. And he’ll pull fewer aerial stunts and one-on-ones that end with him on the floor. All these are a sure recipe for shortening his career.
He’ll have to improve his three-point percentage and his shooting from the paint; players usually change their style as they get older. Rose is only 25, but his knees are much older. And unless he really is a Hollywood stuntman, he’ll have to recognize these facts.
It’s never pleasant to watch a player get injured or see the effect on his team, especially when we’re talking about such a promising player. Last season, without Rose, the Bulls somehow made it to the conference semifinals, where they didn’t stand a chance.
The Bulls are mentally strong enough to overcome the Rose 2.0 trauma, but their glass ceiling – which with Rose was among the highest in the league – is now that much lower. The best they can hope for is the playoffs, and maybe a surprise in the first round as they pulled last season – a serious anticlimax compared to their expectations only a week ago.
One thing is certain: The team built around Rose in recent years won’t win a title. Until Rose returns, rusty as any player who played only 10 games in a season, the Bulls won’t be the same. Just as he won’t be.