Nobody said it would be easy, and it hasn’t been. Not for Derrick Rose.
It was a cool evening in Indianapolis and the Chicago Bulls were in town, trying to get a grip on their young season. When it was finally over, the Indiana Pacers were the only unbeaten team in the NBA at 5-0.
The weary, battered Bulls are 1-3 so far, and looking for answers.
The answers are not that hard to see, although it can be hard to watch. It’s even harder to live. That’s how injuries are; they’re messy, difficult and trying. One thing’s fixed, and then something else goes wrong. You push too hard, and then the rhythm isn't there.
You’re stuck holding the ball and wanting to make it work. Those moments happen in brief seconds, but they can seem like an eternity.
The moments weren't all bad, of course.
It’s not like plugging it back into the wall, though. Major injuries just aren’t like that. And as everybody knows, Rose’s injury wasn’t run of the mill—it’s been a long road back, one with questions and second-guessing.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune captured the essence of it:
Panic doesn't happen four games into a season. Frustration does. And that was evident in the Bulls' actions as they trudged off the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court as 97-80 losers to the Pacers and, later, their words.
It's frustrating, but we're pro athletes. We know that it's only the beginning of the season. We can't let it get that frustrating. We know that if we keep working hard like we're doing, we're going to catch a rhythm soon.
For anxious Bulls fans, the chasm keeps widening. Everybody wants this to get better, and everyone wants Rose to be great again.
The Bulls learned to play without their star and leader last season. He was sorely missed, but they learned to adjust. Tom Thibodeau learned to adjust as well. He had no other choice. Now the learning curve is back—for Rose and for his teammates.
Rose had 17 points against the red-hot Pacers. He also had two assists. During his abbreviated 2011-12 season, he had nearly eight dishes per game.
When Rose is on the bench this season, the Bulls have an offensive rating of 98.7 and a defensive rating of 89.6. When he's on the court, it's 91.2 and 106.9. That’s a spread that’s going the wrong way on both ends of the floor.
He took his time coming back.
He wanted to make sure he had his lift, that he could go hard to the hole, that one part of his body wouldn’t overcompensate for another. And then you’re back in the game, and here come the aches and ice baths. Most recently, there’s been a nagging neck strain.
There are nights when Rose will play well and nights when he won’t. It may not all be working on the floor, but his teammates continue to have his back. The same goes for his coach, as relayed by Johnson:
He'll find his way. He was better. He had two great practices. So each day keep working on improving. Just slow down a little bit, let the game come to you, make the right plays.
In the meantime, Rose keeps pushing, keeps trying to find the angles and the seams. He’s looking for the answers and probably looking too hard. Comeback stories aren’t usually simple or easy.
The Bulls will be back at the United Center Friday night, hosting the Utah Jazz. The temperature will be dropping with wind picking up, and as lights blaze and fans watch and hope, Derrick Rose will be looking for a different answer.