5 Things NBA Fans Can't Wait to See When Derrick Rose Returns
Although still lacking a time frame, the star point guard could be "weeks away" from a return to the NBA hardwood (according to what an NBA source told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times). And the impact of his impending return will stretch well beyond Chicago's city limits.
Rose is a gift to basketball fans around the globe. He plays the game with one goal in mind: putting his team in the best position to win. No matter the physical toll it takes on his body. Or the mental and emotional fatigue that comes with leading an NBA franchise.
Basketball means the world to Rose. It's not an avenue to fame or fortunes for the former Memphis star. Those are simply the game's recognition for his nightly contributions.
It's rare to find a player with his combination of skill and athleticism. It's nearly impossible to find a player who combines those talents with the desire to win at all costs.
All statistics used in this article are accurate as of 12/4/2012.
1. A Return to Prominence for the Chicago Bulls
The NBA not only survived the lengthy labor stoppage that delayed the start of the 2011-12 NBA season, they actually emerged more popular than ever.
Not coincidentally, the franchises of the league's major markets were clicking on all cylinders (much to the delight of commissioner David Stern). It's a superstar-driven league that goes into overdrive when those superstars suit up for the Bulls, Knicks, Celtics or Lakers.
The Rose-less Bulls haven't been terrible this season, but they haven't been good either (8-8). Much to Stern's chagrin, they have been quite mediocre—or worse, just boring.
Without even taking into account the on-court improvements that Rose will bring, he'll make this team infinitely more exciting to watch. He'll keep Chicago (the nation's third-largest media market) at the forefront of public discourse.
2. Another Challenge for the Miami Heat
If there's one thing that basketball fans love, it's rivalries. Whether it involves teams (Lakers-Celtics) or individuals (Magic Johnson-Larry Bird), there's just something about rivalry games that generates increased excitement.
Since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010, these franchises have met just once in the postseason (a 4-1 dismantling of the Bulls in the 2010-11 Eastern Conference Finals). The regular season, though, has seen the Bulls take five of their seven meetings.
With a healthy Rose on board, the Bulls have the talent to compete with the reigning champs. They have the defensive discipline to close off driving lanes for James and Dwyane Wade without losing sight of Miami's myriad shooters.
Not to mention they employ the kind of offensive attack that could give this suddenly leaky Heat defense fits. While Bosh has done a respectable job shouldering the interior defensive responsibilities for Miami, he's not a serious threat at the back end of Rose's drives. Throw in the interior scoring of Carlos Boozer and the passing ability of Joakim Noah, and a Bulls-Heat playoff matchup could be one for the ages.
3. Tom Thibodeau's New-Look Rotation
The new faces on the Bulls' roster were awarded increased opportunities with Rose sidelined by injury. Some have thrived with this chance (Nate Robinson—11.7 points on 46.1 percent field-goal shooting). Others have faltered (Kirk Hinrich—6.1 points on 32.0 percent shooting).
Once a healthy Rose returns to this lineup, Thibodeau's lineup possibilities are nearly endless.
Imagine the defensive havoc that a Rose-Jimmy Butler backcourt could cause on opposing guards. Or the explosive offense Thibodeau could get out of a Rose-Nate Robinson pairing.
Perhaps under the tutelage of Rose, rookie Marquis Teague could emerge as the Eastern Conference version of Clippers' guard Eric Bledsoe. With the proper coaching by Thibodeau and unrelenting practices with Rose, the athletic Teague could fine-tune his game and contribute before the season ends.
4. Additions to His Lengthy Highlight Reel
Rose wasted little time acclimating himself to highlight shows during his four seasons as a pro. With hops, handles and elite athleticism, the point guard's game just lends itself to jaw-dropping plays.
Basketball junkies fiend for an emotionally-charged Rose lifting his team back into the ranks of the elite.
But the millions of casual observers would settle for killer crossovers, dazzling dunks and contortionist finishes. Luckily for them, Rose has never struggled to create collective "Oohs" and "Aahs" from both Chicago and rival fans.
Not to say that basketball purists dismiss Rose's memorable moments. In fact, they'll appreciate the way he can create these dramatics within the course of the game plan.
5. If He'll Come Back Better Than Before
Rose could have enjoyed a rotation role on his slashing game alone. (It worked for Tyreke Evans, right?)
But that's not how he approaches his craft. He's logged countless hours in the gym in the hopes of improving a jumper that entered the league his biggest weakness (22.2 three-point percentage as a rookie) and evolved into yet another weapon at his disposal (31 percent or better in each of the past two seasons).
He's also improved his ability to effect the play of his teammates. His assist numbers jumped from 6.3 as a rookie to 7.9 in 2011-12. Luol Deng's numbers may appear effected by Rose's absence (18.0 points per game), but the return of the willing passer keeps these numbers sustainable or even improvable.
A healthy Rose nearly lifted this club to the 2010-11 NBA Finals. An improved, healthy Rose could carry this club to an NBA championship.