Derrick Rose's Game-Winner Illustrates Star Guard Nearly Back to His Best

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Derrick Rose's Game-Winner Illustrates Star Guard Nearly Back to His Best
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We've all moved past the criticism of Derrick Rose's rehabilitation process, right? It should be clear now why he decided to sit out the whole of last season while resting that surgically repaired knee.

The Chicago Bulls point guard hit a floater with 5.7 seconds left that proved the difference in an 82-81 win over the New York Knicks, via SportsCenter.

It was the kind of circus shot that has become synonymous with D-Rose, and it's an encouraging sign for Bulls fans.

For the game, Rose only finished 7-of-23 shooting for 18 points, with six rebounds and three assists. It was an improvement over his 4-of-15 shooting performance against the Miami Heat on opening night en route to that 107-95 defeat.

By the numbers, you might not be impressed with D-Rose's performances so far. Judging him strictly by that standard would be unfair.

Nobody in their right mind should have expected Rose to be his former MVP self this early into the season. You have to anticipate a feeling-out period that will last at least a week or two. Rose had over a yearlong layoff prior to coming back earlier in the month. Even the best athletes in the world would have a rude awakening upon their return.

No amount of preseason basketball could prepare Rose for the regular season, especially when he's got the Heat and Knicks in his first two games.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

You can see that D-Rose isn't yet at his best, but you can also see that he's the same style of player he was before the injury. That repaired ACL hasn't caused the guard to rethink his strategy on the court. He's not afraid to make those trademark drives into the paint, go in amongst the giants and finish off with some ridiculous spinning layup.

The idea that he might come back a different player was a concern Rose had coming into the season, per ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell:

The biggest thing is after you have an ACL or any injury, it's the mental part. And for me not to think about anything no more and actually be reacting to the defense and the offense, it feels great knowing that I'm safe. I don't have to worry about anything at all, even if I go to the hole and get contact and fall any type of way, that I could easily get up and bounce right back and play the way that I normally know how to play.

That Rose was able to get over the mental hurdle was as much of a sign as any that his decision to take the slow burn with his rehab process was the right one. By waiting all that time, he ensured that his knee would be good go to when the season started, and more importantly, his head would be in it.

D-Rose is there physically. The first two games have shown that. He's driving to the basket and finishing. In addition, he's retained that explosiveness that earned him the Most Valuable Player Award in 2011.

What Rose still needs to do is get that timing down with his teammates. He looks a split-second off in offensive sets. That necessary step forward will only come with repetition and more time on the court in meaningful situations.

The good news is that it shouldn't be much longer until the Derrick Rose of present is the Derrick Rose of old.

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