The checklist appears to be complete.
When Derrick Rose dunked off his left foot in warm-ups on Sunday, he revealed that he has achieved the final personal landmark in his recovery.
Rose, who hasn't played since April 28 in last year's postseason, continues to work back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Doctors cleared him to play on March 9, but he told the Chicago Bulls he would not be 100-percent ready mentally until he could dunk off his left foot in a game situation.
The pregame footage from the Bulls' visit to Detriot on Sunday shows Rose taking off in full stride and finishing a powerful dunk. It’s not a “game situation,” but it appears to be the final step he outlined before he said he would return.
Rose is certainly feeling the pressure to come back as the postseason nears with fans and media speculating as to why the superstar guard hasn’t already taken the floor:
I'm not sure what I'm missing, but I can't understand why Derrick Rose, at this point, can't say whether he is playing this season or not.— Moke Hamilton (@MokeHamilton) April 8, 2013
The Bulls have six remaining regular-season games before moving on as a likely No. 5 or 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that Rose is still open to returning this season, even if it's in the postseason:
I’m not trying to think about that right now. I’m just trying to get better. I’m just trying to help my teammates, give them confidence to go out there and play hard. I’ll play whenever I’m ready to play. Who knows when I’m ready to? Right now, all I can do is just cheer on my teammates.
Rose also said he wouldn’t mind returning in a reduced role, dismissing the notion that he is waiting until next season to return as the 40-minute-per-game superstar, according to Johnson’s story.
It’s obviously more mental apprehension than physical limitation at this point, but overcoming hurdles of the mind is part of the process. There is little doubt Rose has worked incredibly diligently to get back to this point, and one should never question another man’s understanding of his body.
But the pressure continues to mount, and there’s still no clear indication of whether Rose will return this season.