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#TheReturn is finally here


David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

17 months.

It has been over 17 months since we've last seen Derrick Rose play in an NBA game. Those 17 months have felt like an eternity, especially with what #TheReturn turned into and the fact that the hated Heat won two consecutive titles during that span.

The sideshow that was #TheReturn became so tiresome, but like a train wreck, I couldn't look or drag myself away from all the chatter. I admittedly was one of those leading the "He should have come back last year" charge, because with all the information at hand, it seemed the reasonable thing for him to do.

But I'm ready to put all that crap behind me. The past is the past, and it's time to focus on the present. And that present is Derrick Rose playing in a real-life basketball game tonight against the Pacers.

Sometimes I forget just how good Derrick is when he plays. It has been that long. But then I'll stumble across a highlight tape on YouTube or look at a box score like this one, and I'm reminded just how good this dude is when he's at his best. It's really something else.

There's some worry that Rose's injury will rob him of some of the gifts that made him so special. But all accounts say that he looks as good as ever, and with how advanced medical technology is this day in age, I'm honestly not all that worried about it. Sure, he may change his game somewhat, but I don't expect to see all that big a difference in how he played before and how he plays over the next few years.

Will we see the greatness right away? I doubt it. I mean, the guy hasn't played a damn game in 17 months! Even if he's 110 percent healthy, it will take some time to get acclimated to game speed again. Who knows how much time it takes, but we can only hope it's a quick transition.

On the topic of how he looks when he gets back, I don't want to hear anything about how it relates to his decision to sit out last season. If he's great right off the bat, it's not necessarily because he sat out the year. If he's bad, it doesn't mean he was "wrong" to sit the whole year. I know that kind of stuff will be coming, and the argument can really be twisted however he performs, but I'm going to do my best to avoid making those types of proclamations.

At any rate, I'm excited as all hell for tonight. There's some nervousness too, as I'm sure I'll be cringing whenever Rose takes a hard fall or makes a weird cut or jump stop. But for the most part, it's unadulterated excitement. I honestly can't remember the last time I've been this amped for a Bulls season. I'm ready to be done with the criticism and jokes. I don't care if Rose comes out and lays a huge egg. As long as I see some of the flashes of his former self, I'll be one happy Bulls fan.

As the recent SLAM Magazine cover said, it's "Go Time."