Derrick Rose return: instant recovery may not be likely

Jonathan Daniel

#TheReturn is almost dead, but getting back on the court only opens up another challenge for Derrick Rose and his fans.

If you needed a reminder, the former MVP's return will be a huge deal this season. I thought this article at TheBasketballJones was a nice representation of a consensus of feeling: saying there's "no bigger story" and that there "might not be a better opening night matchup possible" when Derrick Rose leads his team into Miami to take on the defending champs.

It also implies the guy himself is back, fully healthy, on opening night. Is that a fair expectation?

Kelly Dwyer is also understandably geeked about Rose's return, but tempers the timeline quite a bit:

It will take a while for Rose to return to NBA speed. It will take a while for his teammates – some new, and some 19 months removed from playing with him – to adjust. The Bulls, in a deeper Eastern Conference than the one Rose left in April of 2012, could struggle to adapt.

And then it will go away. And soon Rose will hit his stride. And soon we’ll all remember what we need to be thinking about right now, as we count down the days until the league starts up again: Derrick Rose is coming back.

...

It’s a long season, it’s a tricky league, it’s a tough game, and 19 months is a long time to be away. It’s true that ACL returnees have proven to come back no worse for wear in the modern age, but the actual restructuring of the ligament is just one aspect of the recovery.

As Dwyer says, the recent history has shown that long-term Rose will be fine. Dwyer's contention that it may take a bit of time shows there's room on the spectrum of expectations: the absolutes being Rose will jump right back into regular season action like it's 2012 (or 2011 before his cascading lower body injuries started appearing) or that he'll get re-injured (via TrueHoop).

Per usual it's somewhere in that gray area that's what probably should be expected. There's no reason to believe Rose and his non-doctor brother suggesting that putting off the final step of the recovery will make that part easier or skipped altogether.

It could, I guess. But the point isn't to dwell on #TheReturn. That decision is done and decided (as are our feelings about it), and what happens next has no real connection to it. If Rose is indeed great again right away it doesn't mean the extra rest helped, nor does it mean he could've come back earlier. And if Rose struggles, it's not necessarily due to the extra-long layoff: it could be that whether it's 8 or 18 months from surgery, a patient's first games back are always a hurdle.

The good news is that  we only have a couple months left to make Derrick, Reggie, and #TheReturn jokes (when he plays in a game, basically....we've seen zero this summer to make us stop). When the guy plays it will be a great feeling: the result will have little bearing on judging last year, but it will help the matter be forgotten.

But then...

This process may still be rough on us as fans, as we're under the spectre of Bulls injury nonsense. Even beyond Rose there are ample examples of the Bulls jerking us around. Just recently it was reported that Kirk Hinrich's bruise that ended his playoffs was indeed a 'ruptured calf'. I don't often go so far to say the Bulls mishandled injuries, but this practice of giving fans ample room to speculate, while far less damaging, sucks enough. If Derrick Rose runs into some problems this season stemming from rust or overcompensation this environment will make even the routine seem very unsettling.

And it probably will just be routine, after which we should expect greatness to happen again eventually.  There's few reasons to doubt a full recovery, but we can still be expectant of some rough patches ahead. Just because Rose may be dedicated doesn't change that, and the idea of him having a shit list for a revenge tour definitely doesn't. Rose is a special athlete, but that doesn't mean his especially-long recovery time won't still provide some physical and mental barriers to overcome.

Maybe it'll get worked out all in preseason, but it also may not until midseason. Odds are it'll eventually get there, which despite any future consternation still means this Bulls year will be a better fan experience than the last one.

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