|Can Derrick Rose rise to expectations in 2013-14? (Peter G. Aiken/USA Today Sports)|
This week's question: Derrick Rose has finally returned to the court for the Chicago Bulls. What will the expectations be of him this season?
This is the rare occasion in which what expectations will be and what expectations should be are identical. Derrick Rose sat on the Chicago Bulls' bench in dress clothes for more than one season, including playoff games, and now the expectations are high as he's decided he's ready to return to the court. Rose has been under a magnifying glass since injuring his knee in the 2012 playoffs, with the media cycle focusing on when he would be ready for action and the heat intensifying after he was declared ready to play by team doctors and chose to continue riding pine under the banner of not being mentally ready.
Rose's 26-point performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday raised expectations even more. Even if it was just a preseason game, Rose managed to eclipse his career scoring average while notching six assists and four rebounds in 35 minutes. While he also committed five turnovers, those will be forgiven because the play-making and scoring are what grab attention. The extra time Rose took to rehab his injury and get his mind right allowed him to foster confidence in his ability to make the moves required of a point guard who utilizes cuts and explosiveness to do nearly everything. That's what allowed him to put up a Rose-routine stat line, as he made his way to the free throw line five times and sunk 10-of-10 gimmes. The more eye-popping statistic -- and what should be a precursor of things to come, according to Jeremy Bauman of Sheridan Hoops -- is Rose's 50 percent shooting from three. For a player hitting 31 percent of long range attempts on his career, going for 4-8 would typically be considered an anomaly, but Bauman notes that players returning from severe knee injuries tend to come back as better shooters. If this holds true and Rose is as healthy as he looks, Chicago's latest savior enters 2013-14 with an expanded arsenal that could not only meet expectations, but demolish them.
The expectations are always going to be high when the player is seen as the face of a franchise as Derrick Rose is with the Chicago Bulls. If Rose would have come back at some point last year, he would have been cut some slack. Maybe it was too soon? At least he's out there competing. Now it's been over a year and a pile of criticism has rained on Rose for not playing in last-season's playoffs when many thought he was ready. The expectations are even higher now that Rose put up 26 points in the Bulls' preseason game Wednesday against the Thunder.
I expect Rose to be back to the form that made him an elite player by the end of the year. These first games will be telling of what point that elite player returns. Ask any player who has suffered a major knee or leg injury and if they say they weren't cautious or terrified of contact or the normal cuts and jumping when they first return, they are liars. Rose's performance all depends on how quickly he can overcome the fear of re-injuring the knee and get back to confidently cutting and taking the ball into traffic. Wednesday was a good start and if that performance was any indication, expectations should be high for Rose this season.
Typically with players coming off an ACL surgery, I’m hesitant to have too many expectations for the following season. However, Derrick Rose isn’t a typical player. Last season, Rose was physically cleared in time to finish the season and play in the playoffs. For some reason, though, Rose elected not to suit up and take the court. Many analysts and fans (myself included) speculated Rose was not mentally ready to push himself to 100 percent. While this may have had some truth to it, ultra-competitive superstars (such as Rose) don’t appreciate hearing their motivation and toughness questioned by spectators. The Chicago Bulls made a heck of a showing in the playoffs, knocking off the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, before falling to the eventual champions in the Miami Heat in the second round. Even though the Bulls fell in five games to Miami, they gave the Heat all they could handle physically. The one thing they lacked was a player who could take over a game and get the tough baskets.
Rose is primed and ready, after having had the time to heal physically, and is motivated to prove the nation wrong about his mental toughness. I expect Rose to be the same player we were used to seeing before he was injured: a game changer who puts up 25 points and eight to 10 assists per game. With Rose back in full force, I think the Bulls are legitimate contenders to unseat the Heat as champions of the East and the NBA.