This seems strange to say considering the point guard missed the entire 2012-13 season after tearing his ACL in the 2012 playoffs. He started to become more recognizable in a suit than a jersey, giving plenty of reason to be skeptical heading into this year.
However, his two early appearances showed people that he should be as good as ever.
In his first game against the Indiana Pacers, Rose showcased all of the physical traits that made him an MVP. He played 20 minutes, totaling 13 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals. He was aggressive with the ball in his hands, and he also displayed impressive athleticism off the bat.
After the game, the point guard even bragged that he had greatly increased his vertical leap, via Nick Friedell of ESPN:
I think I jump higher. I think coming into the league I was at 37 [inches vertical jump] and they tested my vertical at [a training facility], I'm probably at like a 42 [inches], so I'm jumping a little bit higher.
While it is hard to judge this on the court, there was no one questioning the claim at the end of this first game.
Against the Memphis Grizzlies, he was just as impressive while displaying other characteristics that make him so special. He increased his minutes to 23 while scoring another 13 points, including a successful three-point shot on his only attempt.
He also demonstrated his elite speed while going coast to coast early in the game.
More importantly, he showed against the Grizzlies that he is mentally prepared for the season as well.
How good will Derrick Rose be compared to before his injury?
This does not just mean having a high basketball IQ, although he did that also by cutting his turnovers down from four to one in the two games. It also means that he can play a normal game of basketball without fear of re-injury.
Rose was aggressive while going to the net and refused to hold himself back when he left the ground. He also went to the free-throw line 10 times in the win, more than anyone else in the contest. This means he was active on the offensive end.
Even as a point guard, it would not have been surprising to see the superstar ease back into the speed of the game. However, he is clearly ready to lead the offense like he has not missed a beat.
Therefore, Rose is both physically and mentally ready for the season ahead of him. The only thing left is to get into playing shape, something that every player in the NBA must deal with at this point.
Considering the guard is already playing over 20 minutes in games and has six more preseason matchups remaining, this is hardly a concern.
Rose will continue his comeback tour on Saturday against the Washington Wizards. Regardless of what happens, he has already demonstrated that the knee injury is behind him and he is as good as he was two years ago.
When the season finally starts on Oct. 29, fans can expect the start of another MVP-caliber season.
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