In his first comments to the media since his season-ending right-knee injury and subsequent surgery to repair his torn medial meniscus, Bulls point guard Derrick Rose took an overall optimistic tone at Thursday’s press conference, held at the United Center.
But when posed with a query about what he would say to the doubters who believe he’ll never be the same franchise player and that the Bulls should “move on,” Rose’s competitive nature came out.
“What can I say to that?” he paraphrased, before pausing for approximately 15 seconds.
Finally, he answered: “You can be a fool if you want to.”
The Bulls had their morning shootaround prior to Rose’s session with the media and it was almost ironic that they play the rival Heat, as the former league MVP, contrary to the team’s press release immediately after his surgical procedure, didn’t completely rule out returning late in the season.
“If I’m healthy and the situation is right, I’m going to be back playing,” he said, when asked if he could come back by the postseason, assuming the Bulls qualify for the playoffs. “If I’m healthy and my meniscus is fully healed, of course I’ll be out there playing. But if it’s something totally different and the outcome is not how I would want it to be, there is no need.”
Recovery from this injury, as opposed to his rehabilitation from ACL surgery, is typically a shorter timeframe, usually between four to six months. Regardless of how the season plays out for the Bulls, it would theoretically leave room for Rose to participate on USA Basketball’s 2014 FIBA World Championships team, which will have Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau serve as an assistant coach.
“I really don’t know right now. I haven’t really thought about it,” Rose said. “That would be a good idea, but if I’m not ready there’s no need.”
The Chicago native, however, wouldn’t budge on his stance of not playing in informal summer competition and in his mind, neither that nor the injury setback itself will preclude him from returning at an elite level eventually.
“A better player,” he insisted. “I believe that I’m a special player. I think people love the way I just try to play. I don’t try to impress anyone when I’m playing or anything. It’s just the way that I play. I just have a feel for the game. I know my story is far from done. I know it is.”
According to Rose, both his faith and the experience recovering from his torn ACL has better equipped him for the rehabilitation associated with his repaired meniscus.
“It’s kind of frustrating at first, just knowing that I’m going to miss a long period of time without playing the game I love playing. It’s tough right when it happened, but me having these days just to think about it, and being appreciative of me actually going out there and showing glimpses of how I used to play, that’s encouraging and just knowing that I have a bright future, I’m all right. I think that my faith is good, my spirit is good and I’ll be back,” he explained. “When I think about it, the injury, I just turned and this happened, kind of like a freak accident. I put all I had into coming back and if this was to happen 10 more times, I’d be able to deal with it. I did all I could do and you’re telling me that me turning to go back downcourt, I’d tear my meniscus, I’ll deal with it. I put everything I had into coming back.
“I was just hoping it wasn’t an ACL. At first, that was my biggest concern, just thinking about it. We went in the back and they actually tested my ACL and they said everything was fine there, but they were just worried about my meniscus. But for me, I wasn’t worried about that. I’m just happy it wasn’t an ACL again. With this injury, I’m able to get back on the court a lot quicker and I’m able to move around a lot more, so this should be an easier process,” Rose continued. “Last year, the rehab part and the training part, it was all new to me. I didn’t like it. I did it because I wanted to get back on the court, but just going through it, it’s hell and this year, I think it should be a lot easier, where I know what to do and I’m walking. I’m able to put pressure on my leg now. With the ACL, I wasn’t able to put pressure on my leg or put any weight on my leg. I wasn’t able to bend my leg until three or four months [into the process]. I’m able to bend my leg right now after surgery, so this process, I think should be a lot smoother.”
While Rose stayed positive throughout the 20-minute interview session, he remained resolute about two familiar topics.
When asked if he would alter his explosive style of play in the wake of two serious knee injuries, the point guard responded, “I don’t think so. That’s the way that I play. I play a unique way of playing basketball and I can’t change that.”
Similarly, when questioned about whether he’d recruit top free agents to sign with the Bulls in the future, particularly because next summer is a pivotal offseason for the organization, one in which many observers speculate the franchise could see the departure of key longtime teammates like All-Star small forward Luol Deng and power forward Carlos Boozer, Rose was steadfast in his stance.
“I don’t think I will ever recruit. If you’re a hooper and you know as a basketball player if you can play with someone, I don’t think it’s a problem with just coming to a team,” Rose explained. “I don’t think we’ve ever had them problems with stopping anyone from coming. I think I never recruit. I’ll play with anyone and I think I can play with anyone. But I’ll never recruit.”
“To tell you the truth, I haven’t even thought about that. I haven’t had time to,” he went on to say about the possibility of the Bulls’ nucleus being very different upon his eventual return. “I’m just worried about getting my leg together and cheer on the teammates I have on my team right now. There’s a chance I could come back, so I’m just cheering them on, letting them see things on the court that I see. Give them advice and encouraging them to go out there and play hard every game, give the game their all. That’s all I can do.”
Given that Miami happens to be the Bulls’ opponent Thursday, Rose was asked about whether he believed that this could have been the team’s year to get past the two-time defending champions.
“I think about it. But at the same time, I have to deal with the reality. I have an injury. I’m rebuilding my leg all over again, my other leg. So of course you think about it right when it happens. Like I said, get frustrated. But for me, it’s a bigger picture,” he said. “It’s super hard just being out there with those guys. Training camp, you have so many goals that you want to achieve as a team. You go through so many hard practices with your teammates and go through so much stuff with them, and it’s kind of like you can’t be a part of it anymore. Of course I’m a part of it because I’m going to be around. But going through the war with them, being on the court, talking basketball with them, all that stuff is over. It’s hard. I could complain and pout about it, but that’s not going to do anything. I’ve got a long time until I come back, so I’d rather smile than be sad.
“That’s what is heartbreaking, man. I think that I put two good games together. We didn’t win any of the games, but I think the way that I performed, I was coming back to myself. The only thing I wasn’t used to doing was shooting with the ball in my hands or dribbling and shooting. I think my catch-and-shoot was good. It was just a matter of time I was going to catch my rhythm,” Rose added, referring to his last contests before getting injured. “The only thing that I’m missing is a championship. You can have all the awards. You can have all the individual stuff. I think my career is going to be judged by championships. That’s the only thing I’m caring about right now.”