Commentary

Rose needs reversal of misfortune

Bulls guard's recovery from next surgery should be about his happiness, not ours

Updated: November 24, 2013, 1:14 AM ET
By Jon Greenberg | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose is out indefinitely. His season is questionable. The Chicago Bulls are day-to-day.

With a sharp plant of his foot and a cruel twist of fate, Rose's status is the lead story in Chicago and the entire NBA.

The hard-luck superstar guard faces another prolonged rehab as physicians determine the best course of action to repair a torn medial meniscus in his right knee (not the one previously operated on) that requires surgery.

After a second knee injury in as many years, Rose faces an uncertain future. But it's clear the only human emotion to have toward Rose is sympathy.

Not concern over the Bulls' title chances nor arguments about his legacy. Just plain sympathy for a guy with immense talent and finite time to use it.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Bart Young/NBAE/Getty ImagesExpect Derrick Rose to work as hard at rehabilitating his right knee as he did with with his left knee.

Rose is a lot of things to a lot of people: spokesman, role model, meal ticket, hero. He has contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars that pay him to dribble, drive and shoot.

But Rose likes to say he's just a "hooper," a South Side kid who made it big. He's a 25-year-old guy whose skills on a basketball court make him unique. These are skills with an expiration date.

When Frank Sinatra lost his voice, he had time to get it back.

Rose will be done performing by the time he's 40.

Even if you're the kind of Bulls fan who thrives on the reflected glory of the team and now dreads a long winter of Kirk Hinrich pounding the rock, you have to feel sorry for Rose.

While his connection to his hometown fans was loosened during a very weird year off, he's still the most popular athlete in the city. He's still D-Rose.

Fans just want him to feel whole so they can feel whole about appreciating his talent.

When asked about his critics, Rose has repeatedly given the best answer an athlete could: If I were them, I'd want to see my favorite player, too.

Rose already lost a year of prime basketball to the ACL tear suffered in the first game of the 2012 playoffs, and now it looks like he'll miss most, if not all, of this season.

Maybe he's back after the All-Star break, sometime in March. It all depends on how it's decided to repair the tear, as there are several options. Expect the choice to be conservative.

But, it could've been worse. I assume Rose took solace in that. I know I did.

If you didn't watch Friday night's game in Portland, Rose planted after cutting to the hoop before a turnover. He instantly turned to follow the ball and his right knee buckled. He limped up the court, where he was attended to by the trainers. Rose's grimace as assistant trainer Jeff Tanaka worked out the knee was followed by him being helped to the locker room. He left the arena on crutches. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had a look of panic as he met with media.

As Thibs goes, so do the fans. Everyone expected the worse and bemoaned reality.

Yes, yes, there are worse things in the world. The people who lost their homes to a tornado in Washington, Ill., are just a provincial reminder that sports are, at best, a diversion.

But, man, Rose is a wonderful diversion.

Watching him play is a pleasure, and while some have criticized his slower-than-usual start after a long absence, I think he's done quite well. Most important, he still had his speed, that quick burst with the ball that made him wholly unique and won him the 2011 MVP award. The rhythm was starting to come and his 3-point shooting was improved, as promised.

Since coming back this fall, Rose has been met with mild panic. But when Rose limped to the sideline Friday, my feelings were your feelings: confused and sad.

On Saturday, hours were spent hoping for the best possible news after he got an MRI in Los Angeles; and this diagnosis is probably just that, given the circumstances.

There is much to be thankful for next week.

You can bet Rose will attack the rehab as he did last time. While some whined about him not playing the moment he was "medically cleared," that was never quite the plan. The problem was the poor communication between Rose's team of handlers, the Bulls and the media who serve the fans. For the sake of Rose's image, you would hope that doesn't happen again.

But believe me, Rose worked at his rehab then, and he'll do so again. I can't imagine he's eager to miss another season just as he started cooking.

You could see Rose's game start to coalesce as we head toward the second month of the season. That's how it should be, of course: You build up and gain steam and peak in the spring.

Rose needs to get healthy first, and then he needs to attack the court and assuage any doubts. His doubts, not ours.

The big cosmic joke was that Rose was as cautious with his knee rehab as anyone in recorded history. And then this happened.

Taking the extra time to heal, as he did last year to ensure proper explosiveness, worked -- until it didn't. Different knee, but I hope that Rose realizes now that nothing is for certain.

In 2011, he was 22 and the youngest MVP in league history. Now at 25, he's had two knee surgeries and the question becomes: Is he the next Grant Hill, whose ankle problems robbed him of more than four seasons? Is he Brandon Roy, the Portland star whose knees gave out before their time?

Rose's injuries aren't like the ones above, and, certainly, the Bulls were overly cautious about the ACL tear, while Hill, for instance, was reportedly misdiagnosed for years.

But now Rose's bad luck is pushing him toward a group of what-ifs that spans all sports: great players who, to no fault of their own, just couldn't last.

Like you, I hope Rose reverses his latest detour.

Not for the happiness of Bulls fans or the relief of his teammates or the organization, but for him and him alone.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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