The days of being listed as day-to-day, participating in full-contact practices and showing up for pregame shootarounds only to watch the game from the sideline in a suit are gone.
It must have felt longer than one season for Bulls fans waiting for Rose to come back.
All of that speculation can now be laid to rest.
Not only is Rose back, but he is subtly putting the basketball world on notice about what to expect.
In an article by reporter Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Rose talks about the state of his morale:
"The thing that changed in my game the most, I would have to say, is my confidence level and knowing that I put so much into my craft,’’ Rose said at a promotional event Sunday at the United Center. ‘‘I’m working hard. I think I’m one of the hardest workers in the NBA, if not the hardest worker, and I think you should see it in my game when I step on the court."
As for his health, SLAM Magazine’s Adam Figman quotes Rose as saying he expects to be quicker, stronger and a better shooter this season.
Has one of the league’s most explosive and athletic players really improved on what he already does so well?
That postulation should be enough to get any fan’s engine revving, but even more exciting is what all of these factors will bring to some of the marquee match-ups that are going to take place.
The 2013-14 season is shaping up to be a great show for basketball enthusiasts.
Now that appetites for highlights have been thoroughly whetted, let’s look at some opponents that will push Rose to the edges of his evolution.
Deron Williams is not only one of the league’s premier point guards, he is also one of the biggest.
Measuring 6’3” and weighing 209 pounds, Williams is a sizable floor general who is able to impose his physical will on his competition most nights.
As an opponent, who is better for Rose to try out his newly added bulk?
Squaring off against Williams with a bigger frame would mean that Rose would not have to rely too heavily on his quickness to establish advantages.
He can push back on defense if Williams tries to post up; Rose could even use contact on the offensive end to create space for a clearer look at the basket or the floor.
Adding a little spice to this conference showdown are the expectations of their respective teams for this year.
Of course, Rose’s return reinstates the high expectations of being first in line to dethrone the Miami Heat.
With more on the line than ever before, it is going to be a sight to watch these two battle it out.
Westbrook played through all of last year, but due to a torn meniscus suffered in the playoffs, he will more than likely miss the beginning of this season.
This faceoff will be a battle of parallels. Both are explosive and athletic. Both are non-traditional practitioners of their positions. Both are out to prove that their injuries were mere speed bumps on their road to NBA glory.
These two are so similar it is eerie.
Check out their career numbers:
Those statistics point to a highlight reel double-feature.
One very interesting thing will be seeing how far these to athletes push their bodies.
Given that their playing styles are very dependent on having strong legs with which to make sudden changes in direction and quick leaps, the one with the most trust in their limbs will have the edge.
Rose has taken an entire season off to work on everything from building up strength, reestablishing muscle memory and clearing mental hurdles.
Westbrook’s injury did not require as much recovery time, but his road back to complete physical and mental readiness was and continues to be no less challenging.
Judging from his Vine video post back in June, he definitely seems ahead of schedule in the mental recovery department.
Seeing as how both players will come into the first scheduled game with at least a month’s worth of court time, there is no reason to believe that either athlete will be playing at less than full throttle.
Thanks to playing in opposite conferences, games between two prolific teams like the Bulls and Thunder are often billed as potential NBA Finals previews, adding to the anticipation.
Fans might want to mark their calendars for this early Christmas present.
If a ranking of the NBA’s best active point guards were compiled, it would be highly probable that Rose and Paul would be the top two players on the list.
They both do so many things well, but their emphases are on different aspects.
Rose leads the point guard revolution where the primary ball-handler is looking to attack and score while also keeping his teammates along the way.
Paul is one of the few pure point guards remaining, a true facilitator who can crank it up and score when it is needed.
Over the course of their common years in the NBA, these two truly elite athletes have played each other on five separate occasions. That included Paul’s years with the newly christened New Orleans Pelicans.
These matchups did not get interesting until Paul left the Big Easy for Tinseltown, breathing championship life into the Los Angeles Clippers.
There has only been one contest between these two since Paul’s relocation and Rose came out on top.
This season has two games on the schedule and two large viewing markets that will be watching with the hope that these matches are postseason harbingers.
One team led by a fearless Calvary colonel, charging into battle alongside the other soldiers.
The other team conducted by an on-court maestro, making sure that everyone is in place and playing the right part.
A championship pairing so perfect that not even Hollywood could have thought it up.
This season should finally produce a game where Rose and Irving are on the same court at the same time.
A lot of basketball aficionados can’t wait for this one because it has been so long in the making.
Irving is one of the newer dynamic point guards who can score and dish with the best of them.
His rookie season was the tumultuous 2011-12 lockout season. The Bulls were slated to face the Cleveland Cavaliers three times.
The first game produced Irving but no Rose as he was out with a foot injury. Game No. 2 presented Rose without Irving; He was battling the flu. By the time the season finale came around, the logical pattern was completed and the two teams played sans both start guards.
Of course Rose spent the entire season after recovering from ACL surgery creating a two-year anticipatory build up that is likely to reach critical mass if there is any more stalling.
There are questions that need answers.
Can the new kid on the block best the player that helped catalyze the evolution of the point guard position?
Will Rose and company continue their divisional dominance, or will Irving assert his Cavaliers as challengers to the throne?
The fire cannot get any more stoked than it already is. This matchup has to happen this year.
James may play a different position than Rose and only guard him in certain game situations, but competitive tension between these two and their teams is always palpable.
Even in Rose’s 2012-13 absence the Bulls and Miami Heat battled with playoff intensity sometimes.
One of the most memorable games took place on March 27, 2013. That night Miami had their 27 game win streak snapped by a Chicago team that was not only missing Rose, but also All-Star Joakim Noah.
Both teams would go on to meet again in the playoffs, and Miami would once again be the victor.
Rose had to watch all of that; the joy of being a spoiler, the agony of being sent packing by the same opponent.
These occurrences probably motivated Rose to new levels during his rehabilitation. Every professional goal he set for himself likely centered on making sure he can help prevent history from repeating itself should Miami and Chicago square off again in May.
Check out the quote Matt Moore of CBSsports.com obtained concerning Rose’s muscle gains:
“With me, I was always kind of strong, but the way that I play, I hit tricky lay-ups and all of that stuff because going to the hole in my neighborhood, they don't call any fouls, so I was just used to hitting all types of shots. Now this year, I got a little more strength behind me, so I think going to the hole, taking those shots, I'll be able to finish a lot stronger this year. There should be a lot more and-ones, hopefully.”
On the surface it sounds like a player expressing what he hopes will be the benefit adding mass, but upon closer examination, this quote is a gauntlet thrown square at the feet of any opponent getting in the way of Rose and his goal of helping the Bulls win a title.
He knows that James is looking forward to rekindling the NBA’s best new rivalry. He knows that when crunch time begins, James takes on the responsibility to trying to contain Rose.
The previous quote is a shot across the bow letting James and others know that their hard task just got a lot harder.
There are other players that Rose is probably looking forward to competing with once again. Part of what makes the game great is the various players and skill sets opponents present.
While those opponents are important in their own right, James and the Heat are the biggest hurdle standing in way of the Bulls and the Larry O’Brien trophy.
With that in mind, Rose probably has every single game against Miami circled on his calendar since it is through South Beach that his road to basketball immortality leads.