On Saturday, Oct. 5, Derrick Rose made his return to the NBA after a 541-day absence. Rose finished his preseason debut with just under 21 minutes played, helping to lead the Chicago Bulls to an 82-76 win over the Indiana Pacers.
The question is, how can Rose have a truly successful regular season?
D-Rose finished the game with 13 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals on 5-of-12 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from the free throw line. He committed four turnovers, grabbed two offensive boards and threw down a fast break dunk.
In the end, nothing mattered more than the fact that he was back on the court.
As for where Rose should go from here, it all starts with returning to his original style of play.
Step 1: Slash, Cut and Elevate
Fans want to see Rose's new-and-improved perimeter game, but that takes a back seat to step 1 of the return process. The key for Rose is to go back to the basics—if you can call what D-Rose does basic—by attacking off of the dribble and making hard cuts.
Once Rose's knee is able to hold up, he can move forward and focus on the other areas of his game. Until that happens, however, Rose will not be the MVP-caliber player that Chicago needs him to be as they pursue an NBA championship.
Keep in mind, Rose did leave his preseason debut early to nurse his knee after attempting those cuts for 20 minutes and 26 seconds.
That's not a reason to be concerned. It's what happens when a player is returning from a knee injury.
The next step is being able to consistently elevate in the manner that made Rose such a difficult cover. If he can do so, D-Rose will not only re-establish his lethal slashing ability, but also the drive-and-dish game that Chicago's offense so heavily relies upon.
It all starts and finishes with his knee, and if that means committing four turnovers per preseason game, fans should welcome this approach. Even if they don't, Rose needs to.
It's the key to everything he does.
Step 2: Develop Defensive Chemistry
Like it, love it, hate it or loathe it, the Chicago Bulls are and always will be a defensive-minded team under head coach Tom Thibodeau. The offense may have skilled players such as Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Mike Dunleavy, but Chicago will only go as far as the defense permits.
That's exactly why Rose must re-establish defensive chemistry with his teammates.
There's trust within the rotation, but that doesn't mean Rose knows exactly how to play with teammates that are one-to-two years older than they were during his previous stint. Furthermore, players such as Jimmy Butler, Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich are either new additions or playing different roles than in previous seasons.
One way or another, Rose will need to develop a new rhythm with his teammates.
This is critical for Chicago, as the point guard position is becoming less of a facilitating spot than it is a scoring role. For that reason, Rose's knees must be able to hold up as he defends slashers.
There were encouraging signs during his preseason debut, but there's still progress to be made.
Step 3: Develop a Jump Shot
During his first four seasons in the league, Rose has shot a dreadful 31.0 percent from three-point range. His career-best mark was 33.2 percent and, during 2011-12, Rose converted just 31.2 percent from three and 43.5 percent from the field after hitting 44.5 percent from the floor when he won MVP.
Fans may like to think Rose is different from Russell Westbrook, but he isn't. Both have Hall of Fame upside and world-class athleticism, but they also struggle in similar areas, most notably as jump shooters.
The main difference is that Westbrook has a supremely efficient teammate, Kevin Durant, to make his deficiencies look worse. If Rose is hoping to avoid those same criticisms, he needs to develop a jumper.
It's worse than many might think.
According to NBA.com, D-Rose shot 39.3 percent on mid-range jump shots during the 2011-12 NBA regular season. When Rose won NBA MVP in 2010-11, NBA.com reports that he shot 40.3 percent on mid-range jumpers.
The most concerning truth is that he averaged 4.8 three-point field goal attempts in 2010-11 and 4.4 in 2011-12 despite lacking any form of a consistent perimeter game.
Rose is still one of the best offensive players in the NBA, but if he's going to take his game to the next level, he must develop a jump shot. This takes a backseat to defense and slashing, but it's still a critical piece of his game.
Should Rose flash his jumper during the month of October, it will be a successful preseason.