Rose's pains could turn into gains
Time on the bench with injuries could actually help young Bulls star in long run
Frustration manifests itself in many different forms.
In Derrick Rose, it's coming out with every shot missed after his first full-contact practice.
An S-bomb drops. A ball is punched to the other side of the court. This is not who he is, but it is who he's become. Having the game taken away -- even by injury -- can do that to a person. It can eat away at the chillest of demeanors.
"Is it frustrating?" I asked him immediately afterward. "Frustrating as hell," he said back.
But the one thing, again, the one thing that Chicago's platinum child -- with the El-Hajj Malik tat on his peroneus longus -- is not allowing to happen to him during his 12-game sabbatical is for this time on the sideline to infect his thoughts.
His spirit has been challenged. But his mind, Rose admitted, is what he's fighting to keep off-limits from the dark side of where injuries can take athletes.
"Mentally, it's been challenging," he said a day later while sitting in his locker stall next to John Lucas III. "But you have to look at it positively. You see how all of the guys are playing now; one player now can change the whole game. If you bring the energy and intensity to the game right now, you are going to win the game.
"Everyone is tired, and every team and player is going through the same thing right now because of the season [and the way it's been restructured due to the lockout]. Hopefully I can be that guy, you know, when I come back."
Be that one player.
Throughout his basketball career, Derrick Rose has been that one player. From the time he stepped on the court at Chicago's Beasley grammar school to the games he played at Murray Park, he has been recognized as that one player. At Simeon high school, at the University of Memphis, same thing. He knows of nothing else.
So understand, this is so much more than just a groin pull. This is psychological.
He wants to come back, but he can't. But at least now the frustration lessens because he's been given a specific day for his return -- Sunday -- something that up until this week was unknown.
But the beauty in Derrick Rose not being able to ball (besides the Bulls being able to discover who they are as individuals without looking to him to bail them out) is how during this period of time in his life -- for the first real amount of time in his life -- he has been able to see the game, not just play it.
"I've been able to pick up players' tendencies, see what certain players like and what they don't like, see play calls that coaches call, see what works and what doesn't," Rose said. "As a point guard, I definitely need that. [Not playing,] I've been able to analyze the game instead of just playing and reacting to it."
Twelve years ago, a similar thing happened to another player of supreme substance: Kobe Bryant.
Injured for the second time in his career (the first injury occurred the summer before his rookie year when he broke his wrist), Bryant had to sit out 15 games because of another broken wrist. During that time off, Bryant was able finally to see the game.
He came back a different player. A smarter, better player. He told me once that having the game taken away from him due to that injury may have been the best thing that ever happened to him. But it wasn't until he got back on the court that he realized it.
I asked Rose if somewhere deep inside he feels his recent experience could be the same, if not playing could have the same effect on him that it had on Kobe.
"It's a blessing in disguise," he said, finding a platinum-lining in his thus-far season from hell. "I think [this] is going to help me in the long run."