DEERFIELD – The mental anguish Derrick Rose endures day in and day out is worse than the physical restrictions he must overcome.
Few things, if any, intimidate Rose on the basketball court, but nothing has been more daunting than the prospect of testing his surgically repaired left knee.
“Right now cutting is the hardest thing in the world to do,” Rose said. “I’m scared of it. And right when I think I get that out of my system, I think I’ll be pretty close, where I have to prove to them that I’m ready to play. Hopefully, it won’t take the whole year.”
For the first time since he tore the ACL in his left knee during the Bulls’ playoff opening-win April 28 against the Philadelphia 76ers, Rose fielded questions publicly and opened up about his devastating injury during the Bulls’ media day at the Berto Center.
“I always have that underdog mentality where everything can be all right, but I’ve got to find something to push myself,” Rose said. “That’s me thinking in my head that there’s haters and doubters out there and I have to prove them wrong.”
General manager Gar Forman said Rose has come a long way since his surgery May 12 and remains on schedule. However, nobody, including Rose, was willing to estimate when he would be back in the lineup. He has yet to suffer any setbacks, but Forman made clear Rose will not play until everyone is confident he is 100 percent.
“Derrick’s had an excellent summer,” Forman said. “I don’t think in the 30-plus years I’ve been in basketball I’ve seen an athlete attack his rehab like Derrick has.”
Rose is about two weeks away from testing how his knee handles cutting on the basketball court.
“There have been times where I feel like I could jump, play around, do all these things, but I might injure myself and I try to stay away from that,” Rose said. “I don’t know how I’m going to play. I don’t know what’s going to be new about my game. All I know is it’s just going to be exciting for everybody to see.”
The most glaring issue Rose’s absence creates is on-court production, but his leadership can’t be overlooked and will be tested during the months he’s stuck watching the Bulls from the sideline. With six new players on the roster, Rose is making himself as visible as possible around the Berto Center to not only get to know the new guys but remind all of his teammates that he’s doing his best to return as soon as possible.
“That’s why I come in early, even when they were coming in early and working out,” Rose said. “That’s why I do everything here [at the Berto Center], just to let everyone know I’m all right and working hard.”
For now, Rose is sticking around the team as he continues to rehab daily. That could change once the regular season gets under way. Coach Tom Thibodeau wants the rest of the Bulls to focus on preparing to win each game night instead of worrying about Rose’s return.
“The big thing for our team is we’re going to talk about Derrick today,” Thibodeau said. “We’re not going to give daily updates as we go forward. We will update you periodically. But he’s doing great. I want the focus to be on the team and our opponents. I don’t want our team to be distracted.”
Without Rose, the Bulls’ philosophy doesn’t change, Thibodeau said. The players understand their success will be based on their tried-and-true formula: defend, rebound, minimize turnovers and share the ball.
“You don’t lose a great player like Derrick without feeling that,” Thibodeau said. “However, I think we can overcome that with our collective effort. We went through some of that last year.”