In the wake of Paul George’s devastating injury during a recently televised team scrimmage, it’s clear that, for Team USA, the best possible silver lining lies in bringing home the gold—both for George and their country.
The return of Derrick Rose, though, might not be far behind.
In an interview with ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell, Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski reiterated what many who had witnessed Rose’s high-profile return were well aware of—the Chicago Bulls star is back and, perhaps, better than ever:
I think he's exceptional in every way. He went right at it. The first defensive exchange in the camp, he was all over the ball handler. Moving his feet, attacking him -- there was a buzz right away -- because it was basically his saying, 'Look, I'm not just back. I'm back at a level that's elite…He really created an air of excitement for the team because we all were anxious to see who he was right now. And who he is is very, very good. We're ecstatic about it and so happy for him.
After missing the entire 2012-13 season with a torn ACL, Rose was looking to be slowly but surely getting back to MVP form when, in a game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 22, he sustained another injury, this time to his right knee.
Once again, Rose was sidelined for the remainder of the year. Once again, doubts abounded as to whether a player of Rose’s caliber—always attacking, seldom concerned about the consequences—would every truly make it all the way back.
Friedell highlighted precisely this perspective in a column written just a couple of weeks before Team USA’s first practice session:
Rose is the same person he was before -- shy, introverted, cautious -- he's just not the same player. Nobody knows if Rose will look like his old self when he hits the floor again this season, and nobody knows if his body will be able to hold him if and when he does. The only way to win back that trust is to play again -- and play at a high level for an extended amount of time.
Judging by the early returns, Rose is well on his way to achieving just that.
To be sure, we won’t know how effective Rose can truly be until the real competition begins, first in this month’s FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain, then, more crucially, once the NBA season gets underway.
Still, it’s not difficult to fathom how a player of Rose’s otherworldly physical abilities—which have buoyed him far more than they’ve betrayed him—would be more likely to make a full recovery. Even if it costs him two years of his prime.
At 25 years old, Rose’s best basketball days are, hopefully, ahead of him. How effectively he augments his game to offset the inevitable physical challenges and make those days last, however, remains the million-dollar question.
It’s a question Rose, with every point of praise from his coaches and in every emboldened take to the basket, seems hell-bent on answering once and for all.