I heard about Derrick Rose’s knee on the way to my hotel in Chicago. I remember vividly, driving up Interstate 69 through the rural-ness of Indiana and hearing the ESPN Radio Sportscenter update guy giving the news about how Rose and Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks had both gone down with knee injuries just a short amount of time apart from each other. I was on my way to Chicago with my family to celebrate my dad’s birthday. I remember getting to the hotel in the O’Hare area, and immediately racing to the TV. I remember flipping through the local news channels and watching the coverage; every channel was all over it and the tone of the reports was akin to a terrible tragedy. You know those moments where you remember exactly where you were when something went down? This was one of those for me.
Most of all, I remember thinking one thing to myself.
Well now, it’s over.
The wait. The Adidas campaigns. The rehab updates. The stories from practice. The heavy sweating in pregame workouts. The doomsday feelings. The emptiness of watching a season that, in the back of my mind I knew, isn’t going anywhere (credit to the players for fighting every second of the season). The rumors of him coming back. The impatience of fans wanting him back after he was medically cleared around the All-Star break. The awkward statements by Reggie Rose. The debate over whose decision it really was to have Rose sit out all year.
All of it, out the window, with the jump-ball of a normally meaningless preseason game against the Indiana Pacers on day one of the NBA exhibition season.
Finally, Rose finished his pregame workout, and instead of changing into a sharp suit, pulled off the sweats, revealed the number “1″ we all love, and went out on the court.
It was must-see TV for me. (Seriously! I planned my Saturday night around it.)
But the biggest sigh of relief, the biggest catharsis, came on Rose’s first shot attempt, when he exploded into the paint, challenged the Great Wall of Roy Hibbert at the rim, missed, quickly second-jumped for the offensive rebound and the bucket. It came when he tried to take a charge, hit the floor, and didn’t grimace or stay down or favor his leg even for a moment. It came in a flurry of second and third-quarter fast breaks where Rose showed off just how incredibly fast he still (thankfully) is.
He looked fast, he looked in shape, he looked dang athletic.
He looked like Derrick Rose.
And that has to be the biggest victory ever achieved in a preseason game. No, not the score, but the fact with this game, Rose took the first step towards putting all the hand-wringing and outside doubt and what not to rest. Because what he stated was his goal, is what we pretty much saw out there. Fast (on another level of speed compared to the other players), explosive, and fearless attacking the basket. He took hits and got right back up. He took hits and instead of laying on the floor and looking concerned for his well-being, immediately yelled at the refs for a call. He finished through contact and had an and-1. Boy, was it great to see.
Of course he looked rusty. We didn’t see much of a jumper. He lost the ball a few times, and threw a few errant passes. None of those are concerns. The absolute most important thing, is that it looked like the year off worked exactly as planned.
It honestly felt like this day would never come. That day in Chicago, it seemed as if Rose’s career had, in an instant, become nothing more than an exciting memory for Bulls fans to reminisce on. Of course he was always going to come back at some point, but in that moment, it didn’t feel like it. 18 months isn’t really that long a span of time, but at the same time these 18 months felt like 4 years.
So, just like all other Bulls fans, basketball writers and most basketball fans are saying tonight, I’ll say it too.
Welcome back, Derrick.
Now please don’t go anywhere, k? Cool.