FIBA Tournament Proving Derrick Rose’s Climb Back Will Be a Slow One

It was easy to believe, mostly because we all wanted to believe it, that Derrick Rose, a pair of injuries and lost years behind him, was officially ready to reassume his rightful place within the league’s point guard pantheon.

Even if the stats or competitive circumstances stand short of spectacular, Rose’s heart—hardened, no doubt, by the hells of healing—has been on display for all to see.

But following a dreadful three-point, three-turnover performance in Team USA’s 101-71 rout of Slovenia Tuesday, it’s fair to wonder whether Rose’s second ascent might meet with more setbacks than previously expected.

True, the game—Team USA’ final tune-up ahead of Saturday’s FIBA World Cup opener against Finland—carried no competitive significance.

True, Rose was likely being cautious following general, non-knee-related soreness prior to last Friday’s tilt against the Dominican Republic.

True, with so many weapons at his disposal, Mike Krzyzewski needn’t lean too heavily on the longstanding Team USA staple—particularly not with Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau seated nerves a-bundle beside him. 

All the same, it’s impossible not to see Rose’s struggles as a reflection of something more than mere circumstance. Perhaps, after two knee surgeries in as many years and the attendant recoveries that followed, our patience and prudence were put to pasture.

Perhaps the flashes of brilliance we saw during Rose’s first few runs at Team USA’s training camp were merely that: flashes, fleeting and far too fickle to be a guarantor of greatness to come.

For his part—wise, considering his level of investment—Thibodeau is doing his best to keep all of it in perspective.

‘‘You’re going day by day,’’ Thibodeau told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley shortly after the Slovenia game. ‘‘We knew that going in. . . . It is a progression. [Rose] has gotten a lot better. The main thing is shaking the rust off. He will continue to build. If he needs a day off, he will get a day off. He says he feels great.’’

It’s only fair that we take Rose at his word, of course. However tempted an athlete of his caliber might be to delve into denial, such an instinct would doubtless be trumped by the sheer fear of not wanting disaster to strike in threes. 

Besides, we’ve seen this movie before. Specifically during last year’s preseason slate, when Rose’s steady improvement had just about everyone convinced the comeback was complete.

Three weeks of mixed performances later, Rose went down again, tearing the MCL of his right knee in a 98-95 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers last November 22.

Ever since, Rose’s self-sanctioned directive—as best as it could be interpreted, anyway—has been crystal clear: Only when I’m 100 percent healthy will my heels hit the hardwood.

Accepting that logic for what it is, Rose’s stint with Team USA must be considered in a light more practical than predictive, and more strategic than spectacular. It’s a perspective Bleacher Report’s Stephen Babb captured beautifully in a recent piece on Rose’s MVP prospects:

In truth, the FIBA play is more than just an early indicator. It should also afford Rose the opportunity to ease himself back into playing shape, regaining some semblance of rhythm before NBA competition begins.

If Rose weren’t getting his feet wet on a global stage, chances are he’d try to do so somewhere else.

…One advantage to doing it this way is that Rose can return in a controlled environment in which his playing time and exertion can be carefully managed.

For Team USA, choosing three point guards for its final 12-man roster (Rose, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving) is more than just a happy accident; it serves as a sensible hedge against exactly what everyone feared: that Rose’s road to recovery was always destined for bumps aplenty.

In opting for significant backcourt depth, Krzyzewski is—intentionally or not—sparing Rose the pressure of taking on too much, too soon, while at the same time reacclimating the former MVP to the kind of pace and speed that no amount of pickup games could ever truly prepare him for.

In short, both sides have approached the FIBA lead-up with a palpable mix of intelligence and patience.

Whether that’s good enough for the countless fans desperate for a full and final D-Rose return—to say nothing of the player himself—is another question altogether.

To be sure, there are plenty for whom pessimism, or at least guarded realism, is the only perspective worth having. In a column penned shortly after Rose’s second injury, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon—a Chicago diehard through and through—couldn’t help but cite the tragic case of another NBA superstar cruelly cut down in his prime:

Bernard King did it, once upon a time in the 1980s, coming back from two serious knee injuries at a time when medical technology and rehabilitation were primitive compared to what they are now. King was never great after the knee surgeries, but he was really good. And if settling for that seemed unthinkable a month ago, it now sounds like the new Rose reality. People keep looking for a precedent, a player of consequence who came back from not just one knee surgery but two. Well, study King’s career.

Granted, orthopedic medicine has come a long way in the 30 years since King’s devastating injury. Ditto the workout and rehabilitation regimens required as a result.

But so too has the game’s sheer athleticism. For all of his basketball brilliance, King couldn’t hold half a candle to Rose’s near unrivaled power, an approach at once breathtaking and unsettlingly aggressive—violent, even.

That Rose will have to alter his game is, at this point, all but cast in stone. Even if he’s somehow able to regain his paint-penetrating abilities, the cavalier cuts and aerial acrobatics will have to take a backseat to more milquetoast concerns: floaters, jumpers, dependability from beyond the arc and the like.

However Rose’s game ultimately evolves, his return—formal, final and without further incident—remains foremost on the minds of millions.

Unlike with so many other stories of achievement and redemption, this time around, the destination is far, far more important than the journey itself.

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Should Derrick Rose play in the FIBA World Cup?

The case of Derrick Rose is already both a cautionary tale and a lesson in hope for an athlete. While news from coaches at USA Basketball camp shows nothing but good vibes (even as Rose misses game time), his two lost seasons make the optimism a precipitate of just that—lost seasons. We have no idea what to expect of Rose: before the set of injuries, he shared the most crucial characteristics of all truly great NBA stars. An MVP and conference finalist by the age of 22, Rose possessed shades of a Jordan-like mean streak with a certain, veiled humility that contrasted the allure-seeking vanity of LeBron James at the time. Rose wasn’t anything close to Jordan on the court, of course, but he had precious room—and time—to improve. Fast forward two years later. After ripping apart both his ACLs, Rose seems to have an on–off switch when playing. It was very easy to see how free he used to be on an NBA court: his speed and dribbling ability would allow him to run fastbreaks alone. His re…

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Derrick Rose looks ‘phenomenal’ for Team USA

Derrick Rose may even challenge Kyrie Irving for the Team USA starting job at this rate.

      
 

 

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Michigan Basketball: 5 Reasons Derrick Walton Jr. Will Overachieve in 2014-15

Perhaps the biggest X-factor for the Michigan basketball program heading into the 2014-15 season is the continued development of sophomore point guard Derrick Walton Jr.

Walton Jr. had a fine freshman campaign, averaging 7.9 points, 2.9 assists and 3.0 rebounds
while being named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team. Considering the personnel losses the Wolverines have endured, Walton Jr. will need to have a quality season if Michigan wants to keep winning at an elite level.

With a core that also includes Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin, Walton Jr. will look to keep Michigan moving forward, while having the team contend for another Big Ten title and a deep tournament run.

That said, here are five reasons why Walton Jr. may overachieve this year.

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USA routs Dominican Republic as Derrick Rose sits

Derrick Rose sat out to get extra rest while the USA rolled to a 105-62 win.

      
 

 

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USA guards show off depth without Derrick Rose

Team USA’s guards ready to contend for gold regardless of pace of Derrick Rose’s return.

      
 

 

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Derrick Rose reportedly experiencing knee soreness

TweetDerrick Rose has shown flashes of his old self in two exhibition games for Team USA this summer, but according to reports the Chicago Bulls PG has been absent from the practice floor lately due to soreness in his surgically repaired knees. A source familiar with Rose’s condition told ESPNChicago.com’s Nick Friedell that Rose has been bothered by knee soreness since his return to the floor Saturday night in an exhibition victory over Brazil in Chicago and requested the extra time to recover. But Team USA officials, to this point, have downplayed concerns about Rose’s status. “We’re gonna give him a couple days off because he’s been going so hard,” Krzyzewski said during the interview, which he gave en route to Team USA’s all-day trip Monday to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Rose tore his left ACL back in 2012, causing him to miss the entire following season. Rose then tore the meniscus in his right knee 10 games into the 2013-2014 season. Considering that Rose has only played a

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Derrick Rose Would Be Wise to Sit out Team USA’s Wednesday Exhibition

Until we see Derrick Rose play an entire NBA season and return to something resembling his MVP form, there is going to be panic whenever he misses a practice or game.

That’s just a reality now for Chicago Bulls supporters and basketball fans everywhere. After all, he missed the vast majority of the past two seasons and three playoffs for the Bulls, and we were potentially robbed of some classic showdowns between Chicago and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.

The injuries may be in the past, but caution should still be the operative word with Rose (especially in August) with an ever-important future looming. 

Some of that natural worry popped up again Tuesday, and Comcast Sportsnet Chicago pointed out why:

The United States takes on the Dominican Republic Wednesday in an exhibition contest at Madison Square Garden. For now, Rose is still scheduled to play in that contest, although he may not start like he did against Brazil in the first exhibition because his knee soreness forced him to miss practice.

For all the concern that surrounds Rose’s health, the man himself didn’t seem particularly worried, via Tim Casey of the Chicago Tribune (subscription required):

There’s nothing wrong with rest. It ain’t like it’s the season. I’m not worried about it.

I’m really, really happy with where I’m at right now health-wise (and) recovering very quickly. I’m just trying to take my time and get rest because we have a long schedule ahead of us — just try to get as much rest as possible. 

Jerry Colangelo added more context to the situation, via John Schuhmann of NBA.com:

Rose and Colangelo are exactly right, there is nothing wrong with rest right now. He looked explosive but rusty in the 24 minutes he played against Brazil and clearly needs some live action, but his overall health is much more important.

Both he and the coaching staff (that just so happens to include Bulls head man Tom Thibodeau) should recognize this and sit him out Wednesday. After all, it’s just an exhibition game against an Al Horford-less Dominican Republic squad and ultimately has no bearing on the actual World Cup.

Plus, the United States is not going to lose, even if Rose does miss the game. It still has Kyrie Irving to fill in, and he would probably be the best player on the vast majority of the other teams competing in the event.

The risk versus reward ratio is balanced far too heavily toward risk if Mike Krzyzewski plays Rose Wednesday. There are still more exhibition games down the road before the event begins that Rose can play in.

It is much more important that the Bulls point guard is ready to go for the actual World Cup and the 2014-15 NBA season. He is one of five projected starters for the squad alongside Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis and will be asked to carry much of the load.

Once the World Cup begins, the Red, White and Blue play five games in six days before the round of 16. With so many marquee players either injured (Paul George) or no longer on the team (Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love) and a loaded schedule, there will be a heavy burden on Rose.

He brings valuable international experience to the table after playing in this event in 2010 and will be seen as one of the team leaders.

What’s more, Rose’s place on the Chicago Bulls is more important than ever this year given the chaotic NBA offseason. LeBron James left Miami and George unfortunately suffered a gruesome leg injury, which puts the Bulls right near the top of the Eastern Conference with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Chicago added Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic to a frontcourt that already features Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. Still, it ultimately needs a healthy Rose spearheading the effort if it wants to knock James and the Cavs out in the playoffs. 

With an incredibly important NBA season and a physically grueling schedule in the World Cup on the horizon, there is no need for Rose to push his knees just for an exhibition game Wednesday. There is just too much at stake.

 

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Derrick Rose’s Play vs. Brazil Further Proves Bulls Star Is Ready for NBA Return

As Derrick Rose gets closer and closer to his NBA return, the signs continue to show that the Chicago Bulls star might actually be better than he was on Nov. 22, 2013—the last time he played in a regular-season game.

Team USA played in its first exhibition contest Saturday night against Brazil, and Rose stood out as you’d expect in his own United Center. The point guard finished with seven points in 24 minutes of play, but his impact went beyond the box score.

Of course, it became apparent before the game even started that it would be a special night for Rose regardless. Not only was it his first competition since 2013 other than a Team USA intra-squad scrimmage, but it gave Bulls fans a firsthand glimpse of their star for the first time in a while.

The excitement was at a fever pitch, as SLAM Magazine captured:

Rose reacted accordingly. Although he failed to score until the end of the first half, his first basket came in spectacular fashion.

Gathering the ball underneath his own basket, Rose raced the length of the court and finished a runner off the glass to beat the buzzer. It was big at the time, pushing the Americans’ lead to eight just before the half.

Here’s a look at the pretty layup:

The 25-year-old continued to be in attack mode into the third quarter. He showcased his individual ability again late in the third, when he drove past two defenders only to rise up and finish over Anderson Varejao—a sign of many more future scores over the Cavaliers center, Bulls fans hope. 

USA Basketball posted his finish in slow-mo:

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated his guards, as expected, with the 12-man roster cuts looming, but Rose proved in his two dozen minutes what most in the building wanted to see. He was explosive, agile and smooth with that killer instinct that makes him one of the NBA’s most effective rim attackers. 

It was a sight to behold for any basketball enthusiast following Rose’s recent career. After tearing his ACL and missing all of the 2012-13 campaign, he returned last season only to suffer a torn meniscus less than a month in.

And in his first true competition in over nine months, Coach K and his staff opted to give Rose some extra run and weren’t disappointed in what they found, per Chicago Tribune‘s K.C. Johnson:

With everything in perspective, the typically wise Rose tempered expectations, per Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears:

For anyone who has followed Team USA closely over its training in Las Vegas, Rose’s strong performance Saturday is far from surprising. The rave reviews on Rose’s health and overall game were coming in by the day, and he impressed in the team’s scrimmage at the end of camp.

Nothing can replicate true competition, and certainly Saturday’s game is just the next step in Rose re-familiarizing himself with the NBA game. Next up is the looming FIBA World Cup in Spain, and if his spot in the starting lineup Saturday is any indication, he’ll be getting plenty of minutes.

Rose has been surrounded by a contending Bulls squad throughout much of his time there, but now couldn’t be a better time for him to return to full health. Offseason acquisitions of Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott and the signing of Nikola Mirotic have Chicago as one of the East favorites.

Of course, that’s assuming Derrick Rose is healthy, which has been a rarity in recent seasons. But considering how he’s performing alongside some of the world’s best with Team USA, his best is yet to come. 

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All Eyes Shift to Derrick Rose in Team USA’s FIBA Warm-Ups

CHICAGO—Reporters swarm Derrick Rose the instant he’s free for questions, running without thought by the likes of Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Stephen Curry to shower the Chicago Bulls point guard with attention. From the looks of things, you wouldn’t know that Team USA has an exhibition game against rival Brazil on Saturday in Chicago—a healthy Rose is the main event.

Team USA has made its way to Rose’s hometown, but he’s been the center of the Americans’ summer since the moment they took the floor in Las Vegas, holding the spotlight firmly, save for the boom of Paul George‘s horrific leg injury. Everyone’s eager to see the folk hero and 2011 NBA MVP return to form. Especially on the cusp of an NBA season with an unusually wide open Eastern Conference, thanks to the trimming of the Miami Heat’s Big Three to a Big Two.

Rose could hold the key to an Eastern Conference power shift, but he processes the fervor over his fame with an increasing affability these days.

“I don’t have fear, I have faith,” he says when asked about George’s injury, along with his own tenuous health. “I know that I’ve busted my [tail] the entire two summers, two seasons, getting back to where I am right now. I’m just trying to keep it moving and stay positive every day.”

When asked about having his coach Tom Thibodeau around as a Team USA assistant, he cracks a joke. “At least he’s not spying on people at the Berto Center [the Bulls' practice facility],” he says with a laugh. This is the new Rose, with a new kind of zen. 

Rose’s unreliable body has made it hard to remember, but these two share an unparalleled competitive drive together. They’re basketball soulmates, their legacies tied directly to one another.

The Bulls’ front office efforted — and completed — deals this offseason designed specifically to maximize Rose’s talents. Carmelo Anthony didn’t materialize, but first-round draft pick Doug McDermott, free agent Pau Gasol and European wonderboy Nikola Mirotić represent a shift in Thibodeau’s historically defense-first personnel schemes.  

“I think the big thing is getting the shooting to surround [Rose] with,” Thibodeau said about the offseason moves the Bulls have made. “Teams have to play him honest, they can’t load up on him.”

Thibodeau describes Rose’s 2010 experience with Team USA as “a springboard to his MVP season,” a reminder that he’s led the star for all but two of his professional seasons.

“We expect a lot from [Rose] and hope he’ll give even more,” said Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “I think [the expectations] have probably heightened since we didn’t know who he could be until we saw him in Vegas.” 

Rose runs the floor during a Team USA scrimmage in a more methodical, measured fashion than we can ever remember from the excitable speed demon who took the league by storm years ago. With Team USA—and with any luck, the 2014-15 Bulls—Rose is able to take a step back and use his quickness and athleticism more selectively. During practice, Rose takes deep floaters for all to see; the newly-sharpened move in his arsenal perhaps a more telling sign than any of his transformation.

When asked whether Rose has gained speed upon his return, Thibodeau said, “he’s probably changing speeds a little bit better. His approach is great. He concentrates on daily improvement, on not forcing things and finding the rhythm of the game. His patience is much better.”

He’s also worked to become a much better player off the ball. In Rose’s calmer, more diverse approach, one can see the pieces of Thibodeau’s master championship plan coming together, its outline becoming more visible. All of it will be under the microscope over the next few weeks during Team USA’s exhibition games and later this month when the FIBA World Cup begins in Spain.

“I think [Team USA] gives guys a lot of confidence,” Rose says. “You’re around great players, great coaches, great trainers, you learn from everybody. You can’t do anything but grow.”

The two men at the center of the biggest Bulls season in memory look to be finding a new kind of peace simultaneously with Team USA. If they can carry this poise—and two healthy Rose knees—into the 2014-15 NBA season, there will be a short list of teams in their echelon.

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