On Thursday, Derrick Rose made his first media appearance since undergoing surgery to repair his right meniscus -- a procedure that, according to the Bulls, would keep Rose out for the season. His every word dripped with a forlorn confidence; while clear that Rose expects to come back to again play high-level basketball, it's also evident that Rose carries with him the burden of another potential season lost.
"The process of actually dealing with an injury is kind of frustrating at first, knowing I’m going to miss a long period of time," Rose said, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. "...I just can’t play the game that I love playing."
It's all on hold for Rose -- the game, the career, the title contention. Frustration would be inevitable under those circumstances, particularly as Rose looks ahead to yet another extended stretch of rehabilitation. For an NBA player, the trials of rehab from a major injury strip basketball of its rewards. They inspire doubt from inevitable uncertainty. They stretch through months on months, and in the case of Rose's previous ACL tear, claimed an entire season from him and a Bulls team looking to challenge for the NBA title. The recovery from a torn meniscus (and the ensuing surgery) is fortunately a bit shorter, though Rose took the shorter, less strenuous path before him as reason to -- again -- not rule out the possibility of a return. From ESPN Chicago:
"If I'm healthy and the situation is right, I'm going to be back playing. 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's no need."
While this quote might irritate Bulls fans who have already endured one season of indefinite absence, it's a sensible address in context. Over the past year, Rose received criticism on two fronts: Some for not declaring himself out entirely for the 2012-13 season as he worked his way back from a torn ACL, and some for Rose opting not to return even after he had been medically cleared to play. This time around, the Bulls addressed the former group of critics -- by stating upfront that Rose was not expected back this season -- while leaving Rose to deal with the latter. Rose had (and has) every right to decide for himself when to make his return, provided his medical clearance. All he claims in this case is that he'll play if he can, seemingly in response to those who took him to task for not swooping in to save the Bulls late last season. This needn't be an issue unless we make it one, beyond all reason to the contrary.
A few other tidbits from Rose:
• On those who will doubt him as he comes back from a second major knee injury, and those who believe the Bulls should move on without him (Chicago Tribune): "You can be a fool if you want. I know I’m going to be all right."
• Whether he has any doubt that he'll return at a high level (Bleacher Report): "Not at all. I believe that I'm a special player. I think people love the way that I just play. I don't try to impress anyone when I'm playing or anything. It's just the way that I play. I know, I've just a feel for the game. Like I said, I know my story is far from done."
• On going through rehab for the second time in two seasons (USA TODAY): "Last year, the rehab part and the training part was all new to me. I didn't like it. I did it because I wanted to get back out on the court, but it was hell to go through. I think this year, it should be a lot easier. I know what to do."
• On his style of play as it relates to his injury (Chicago Tribune): "I could get hurt 10 more times -- I'm never going to stop...I play a unique way of playing basketball. I can’t change that." • Rose's message to Bulls fans (USA TODAY): "I'm not done yet."