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What Iman Shumpert Can Teach Chicago Bulls Fans About Derrick Rose Expectations

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 28:  Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls shoots while working out before the Bulls take on the Phildelphia 76ers at the United Center on February 28, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 7, 2013

For Chicago Bulls fans frustrated by the on-again, off-again 2012-13 return of former MVP Derrick Rose, take comfort in the fact that things could be worse.

While there isn't a Bulls fan alive that wouldn't like to see a healthy Rose back in the lineup (outside of maybe some immediate family members of Nate Robinson and Marquis Teague), how many can confidently say what type of player they'd be getting?

It's an uncomfortable learning process that New York Knicks fans have been forced to undertake this season.

The Knicks had a young, dominant guard last season: Iman Shumpert. He bolstered his defensive instincts with elite-level athleticism and emerged as the only first-year player to receive votes for Defensive Player of the Year (via Al Iannazzone of Newsday).

Offensively, he made up for the lack of a reliable jump shot with decisive drives to the paint, often culminating in a highlight finish.

But his strong season abruptly ended after tearing his ACL in the opening game of the 2012 playoffs.

Any of this sound familiar, Bulls fans?

Well, here's where the story gets different. While Rose remains sidelined, Shumpert has made his return. In fact, he's been back for nearly two months now.

But Shumpert doesn't even look like a shadow of his former self yet. And that has nothing to do with the emergence of his trademark flat top.

Shumpert's play has lacked the one thing Rose knows he can't play without, the one thing keeping his 2012-13 in question: explosiveness.

Coach Mike Woodson has certainly noticed a difference in his laboring guard. "It's like he wants do it but he's reaching, he's grabbing to get where he wants to be instead of moving," Woodson told Iannazzone. "Last year, he'd beat you to where you wanted to go and take it from you."

His instincts are there, his reads are solid, but his body is unable to act upon what his mind is telling him to do.

Shumpert admitted that he's not yet the same player and understands why. "I just came off an ACL [tear]," he told Iannazzone. "I couldn't do anything with a basketball except really just stand-in-place stuff. So when you're trying to come back, your rhythm is all messed [up]."

As badly as Bulls fans want to see Rose back in action, how many would be OK with seeing Rose at 80 percent? What about 70 percent?

Frankly, it's a question that Rose is doing everything in his power to leave unanswered. He told USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt that he's "not coming back until (he's) 110 percent."

Although mathematically impossible, I'd guess his 110 percent looks something like this.

In terms of its reverberation around the basketball world, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau's recent assessment of Rose as being "day-to-day" (according to Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com) was a bombshell.

In reality though, Thibodeau shook the NBA landscape without really saying anything at all. "Whenever he's ready, he's ready," he added. "We just want him to continue to improve, focus on his rehab, and then when he's ready to go we'll all know. Everyone has to remain patient."

It's been a familiar tune around the organization all year, but Thibodeau hit on one key point at the end.

Patience is an elusive virtue in the world of professional sports. But it's one that Bulls fans must find a way to discover.

Even at full strength, Rose won't waltz back onto the NBA hardwood as an MVP-caliber player. No rehab in the world can offer a player a seamless transition to the speed of the game after spending so many months away from it.

There weren't many worst-case scenarios before the season more ominous than Rose missing the entire year. But watching him try to work himself back into form when the games matter most just might be one of them.

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