Derrick Rose may have missed the entire 2012-13 season while slowly recovering from his torn ACL, but the Chicago Bulls point guard has reportedly hit the final step in his process.
He's regained his confidence.
According to a report by ESPN's Jon Greenberg, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau watched the 2011 NBA MVP workout a week ago and was floored by what he saw. Thibodeau noted that Rose's speed and explosiveness have finally returned to their previous levels, calling the experience of seeing him play "great."
"Watching the way he's moving now, there's a confidence," Thibodeau said. "[Reporters] may not have been able to see the total work he was putting in. But he was putting in an enormous amount of work each and every day. He just never got to the explosiveness he was comfortable with."
Rose, who tore his ACL in Game 1 of Chicago's first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers in 2012, spent his the entire 2012-13 campaign struggling to get back to 100 percent.
While hope persisted throughout that the Bulls superstar would return to the United Center floor, Rose's recovery was a never-ending series of stops and starts. Reportedly cleared by doctors in early March, Rose's status became a gigantic elephant in the room for Chicago, an overachieving bunch that was in desperate need of a scoring punch.
A three-time All-Star, former MVP and arguably the NBA's best point guard when healthy, Rose's return became the looming story for Chicago. Should Rose, who averaged 21.8 points and 7.9 assists on 43.5 percent shooting in 2011-12, return, it was believed the Bulls could contend for an Eastern Conference championship.
But it became slowly apparent that Rose sitting out the 2012-13 season was an inevitability. Despite Rose and Thibodeau never ruling the 24-year-old guard "out for the season," he continued to sit in a business suit as teammates worked to keep the team firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
When the Bulls advanced past the first round, besting the Brooklyn Nets in a seven-game battle, the calls from outside for Rose to return grew louder. Reports had grown loud that Rose's last hurdle in returning to the lineup was not his body, but his mind. That Rose needed to overcome the mental hurdles, not the physical ones.
When Chicago continued its improbable playoff run by defeating the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their Round 2 series, the calls for Rose's return hit an apex. He was practicing with teammates in five-on-five situations, and there were many who believed that Rose was being too cautious in his return.
In his interview with Greenberg, Thibodeau strongly refuted that notion.
"He was practicing and he was good sometimes, but he also wasn't able to make the kinds of plays he likes to make," Thibodeau said. "No one is more explosive and can change direction like him. He had to be capable of doing that.
Rose, for his part, said that he was more worried about his long-term health than any criticism he may receive. In an interview with K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune during the playoffs, Rose noted that he felt a season off would do him wonders in recovery.
Since the Bulls' elimination by Miami, Rose has been in Chicago continuing to work on his recovery. He will soon leave the Windy City for almost the remainder of the summer, first to work out with his trainer in Los Angeles and then to participate in some public appearances overseas.
That time has also seemingly afforded him the space to work on his recovery that he seemed to desire in the playoffs. Rose may not have returned for the Bulls' playoff run this season, but it seems he's ever closer to being the man capable of leading them even farther.
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