First-year Denver head coach Brian Shaw, a former NBA player, has a unique perspective on Derrick Rose’s return.
Having played on championship teams with the Lakers, then assisting his former coach, Phil Jackson on more title squads, Shaw, who started his playing career on the Larry Bird-era Boston Celtics, has had plenty of experience with high levels of achievement. Thus, as a Pacers assistant, when he encountered a sidelined Rose — in Indiana, the lone regular-season game the former league MVP attended last season — he drew upon his past observations of former Orlando Magic teammate Penny Hardaway to give his fellow point guard some advice.
"Last year, I had a conversation with Derrick Rose. It was later in the year in Indiana. I talked to him about Penny Hardaway, who was a teammate of mine in Orlando. When he blew his knee out, he came back too early. He never regained the form that he had prior to the injury. I think obviously no one knows himself better than themselves. For him, doctors can give a projected date, trainers, what have you. But until you get to the point where you get comfortable physically and mentally,” Shaw recounted. “I’ve never had a surgery of any kind, so I don’t know what it’s like. But I can imagine what you go through not being sure you’re going to be able to do what you did to that point.
“Everybody is different. There’s a lot of pressure. But what it comes down to is you want to come back and you don’t want to be a shell of yourself when you come back. You want to be at 100 percent and perform at the same level you’re accustomed. Some players aren’t willing to come in at a lesser point than that. Some will do everything they can to try to get back before they’re ready. That varies from player to player,” he continued. “I thought it was unfair. I think he did the right thing. Although the doctors cleared him, I’m sure there have been cases where someone has been cleared to do something and they go out and injure themselves. He’s his best gauge. He had to deal with all the criticism and backlash. As long as he can handle that, I think it’s fine. You see right now the way he’s playing so far in the preseason, I think it was the right decision. I think he’s back at the level that he was when he was MVP.”
His conclusion after Friday evening’s game, in which Rose scored 15 points and dished out eight assists while helping to rally the Bulls from a 19-point deficit to defeat Shaw’s Nuggets?
“I don’t think he missed a beat. This wasn’t one of his better games, but he looks like he has all of his explosiveness back,” the coach said. “A lot of those guys come back from those injuries and because they put so much work and time into rehab and strengthening up the area that was injured, they get stronger all over. That seems to be the case with him. I saw something last week where they say he increased his vertical jump. He looks explosive, he looks strong. The way he has played this preseason, it looks like he is back.”