- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- As Brian Shaw watched Derrick Rose work his way back from knee surgery last season, the former player and current Denver Nuggets head coach couldn't help but remember an old teammate of his -- Penny Hardaway.
Shaw, who played with Hardaway in Orlando, said Friday night that he talked to Rose about his decision to return to the floor and mentioned what happened to Hardaway as an example.
"I had a conversation with him about Penny Hardaway," said Shaw, who was an assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers at the time. "He was a teammate of mine in Orlando and when he blew his knee out he came back too early and he never regained the form that he had prior to the injury.
"Obviously, no one knows themselves better than themselves. And for him, doctors can give a projected date, trainers... what have you, but until you get to a point where you're comfortable physically as well as mentally... I've never had a surgery of any kind so I don't know what it's like, but I can imagine what you go through just not being sure if you're going to be able to do everything you've been able to do up to that point."
Shaw understands what kind of expectations were on Rose last season and he is confident that Rose made the right decision. After seeing what happened to Hardaway towards the end of his career, Shaw did not want Rose to go down the same path.
"Everybody's different," Shaw said. "There's a lot of pressure. What it comes down to is you want to come back, but you don't want to be a shell of yourself when you come back. You want to be able to be at 100 percent and perform at the same level you're accustomed to doing. Some players aren't willing to come in at a lesser point than that and work their way up until they get that. And some do everything they can to try and get back on the court even before they may be ready so that just varies from player to player."
Like many others around the league, Shaw did not like that Rose was criticized for not coming back to play even after being cleared by team doctors. He was happy the Bulls point guard stuck to his decision and continued rehabbing throughout the summer.
"I thought it was unfair," Shaw said of the criticism. "I think he did the right thing. Although the doctors cleared him I'm sure there's been cases where someone's been cleared to do something by the doctors and they go out and they injure themselves. He's his best gauge for whether he's able to come out there. He had to deal with all the criticism and backlash or whatever you want to call it. As long as he can handle that I think it's fine and you see right now the way he's playing in the preseason I think it was the right decision. I think he's back at the level that he was when he was the MVP."
With the way Rose has played over the last few weeks, it's hard to argue with that assessment. For his part, Rose is trying to push past all the criticism. He knows that a portion of the Bulls fan base turned on him but he also understands the only way to win them back is to play the way he did before the injury.
"For me, that's the last thing I can think about," he said of the critics. "I know that I'm back on the court and I know that I'm playing with a bunch of guys that have my back so my confidence is super high right now. I've just got to continue to play the way that I play and be aggressive throughout the whole game."