According to an NBA source, while ‘‘The Return’’ to the court for NBA games is still up in the air for Rose, the all-everything point guard could be just weeks away from practicing with the Bulls again after surgery on his left anterior cruciate ligament last May.
When Rose tore his ACL and was forced to begin a grueling path back to the hardwood, he took Chicago's championship aspirations with him.
Sure, the Bulls were 18-9 without their fearless leader during the 2011-12 campaign, but this was different. No light was at the end of this caliginous tunnel; Chicago would be forced to operate without one of the most indispensable players in the Association for as much as a year.
Yet even in the darkest of months, Rose has never wavered as a symbol of hope. He has remained relentless and humble as he navigates the waters of restoration, and he's provided us with a bird's eye view of his journey every step of the way.
The diligence he has displayed in the weight room, the pain that comes with complex rehabilitation and the emotion he has put into his this entire process—we have seen it all.
We have seen the work he's put in. We have seen the physical and emotional pain he willingly puts himself through on a daily basis. We have bore witness to one of the most determined athletes to ever grace the court.
Because he didn't want us to forget. Not forget about him, but forget how much the game, how much his team and how much the fans mean to him. He wanted us to remember that he would not fade quietly off into oblivion, that this injury would serve as a defining moment of his character, not a premonition of his ultimate downfall.
This is exactly what the NBA has been missing without Rose—heart.
There isn't a single player in the league who is more devoted to his team, to his fans and to his city than Rose. His on-court stylings are mesmerizing, yes, but they're merely a vessel that help convey how dedicated an athlete, how committed a person he truly is.
No, this isn't to say that there isn't a single player with an unrelenting will to win for his team and his fans, but Rose is the poster-athlete for genuine zest.
Praying for my city man... #TheReturn— Derrick Rose (@drose) September 5, 2012
Right now, no one cares that the Bulls—who are barely playing .500 basketball without Rose—are atop the Central Division. No one cares that there is still no definitive timetable on when the point guard will make his regular-season debut.
All anyone cares about is that, once again, a sidelined Rose has made his inspirational presence felt; all that matters now is Rose's return, and how very close it suddenly seems.
And yes, this is cause for excitement.
Rose is sprinting again. Not just cutting or slashing behind the scenes, but running in plain sight.
This is the same Rose that averaged 21.8 points and 7.9 assists while posting a 23.10 PER in the midst of an injury-riddled campaign last year. This is the Rose who has proved to be the difference between title contention and mediocrity for the Bulls.
This is the Rose who showed no hesitation in admitting that he would die on the court, that he would do anything for his fans and his teammates.
"I would die on that court." - Derrick Rose bit.ly/WW4lo5— Dime Magazine (@DimeMag) December 1, 2012
Who says that anymore? Better yet, who says it and actually means it anymore?
No one, not in the same altruistic context as Rose does, anyway.
Chicago has attempted to create a formidable stopgap since his injury last May; it has tried to persevere through his absence, but it has failed. The Bulls need added explosiveness, additional high-flying accolades and a silent but powerful will to win.
They need Derrick Rose.
Upon his inevitable return, Chicago suddenly becomes a viable contender. His presence immediately turns a 21st-ranked offense into a point-totaling machine. He alone provides answers to a Bulls team that is attempting to get by at the expense of Luol Deng and Joakim Noah's stamina.
And yet, it's not just the Bulls that need him, but the entire league. He is the embodiment of everything the NBA wants to stand for. He is one of the adorning faces that only brightens the future outlook of the Association.
He is someone who injects not only sheer athleticism, but life into the game of basketball.
Rose has established a connection between him and the fans that is near unmatchable and unlikely to ever be exceeded. He has made a name for himself both on and off the court, as a humanitarian who doesn't need to have a ball in his hands to positively influence the masses.
As such, his return is not merely a simple re-entry into the basketball sphere. It serves as something more. Something much more.
It's a symbol of hope and an emblem of heart.
For the entire league.