Given how much stock the Chicago Bulls have invested in Rose, you can understand why they might not be holding a parade down Rush Street when the former NBA MVP steps back on the court for games with Team USA during the World Cup of Basketball.
To his credit, Rose certainly isn't lacking for confidence despite the number of games he's missed and coming off injuries to both of his knees.
He told Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com that he's right where he needs to be: "I really think I'm a special player in my mind. And I still have youth -- I'm only 25. Just doing everything I'm supposed to do in rehab, just strengthening everything, taking it one day at a time and getting the most out of every day. That's why I've been preparing for this moment, really."
We know that Rose, at full strength, is a special player. He won an MVP award with LeBron James also playing at the peak of his powers, and he led the Bulls to a league-best 62 wins in 2010-11. No one knows if that player still exists, though.
After returning to NBA action last season after sitting out all of 2012-13 after tearing his ACL in the postseason the previous year, Rose was clearly lacking something that made him special prior to going down.
The All-Star point guard was averaging a career-low 15.9 points on 35.4 percent shooting and 4.3 assists per game in 10 games last year before tearing his meniscus and missing the final 72 games.
Rob Mahoney of SI.com tried to pinpoint a reason for Rose's issues last November, finding that he was settling for contested shots and three-pointers when he used to attack the basket.
Rose's shot selection has left something to be desired but hasn't been destructive to a degree that would explain his 22.9 percent shooting on jumpers (per Vorped). His shooting motion has appeared rushed at times but is generally consistent with his better-shooting seasons. His passing has been a bit sloppy but is still informed by the same playmaking style that brought more appealing assist-to-turnover ratios in previous years. That's what's most perplexing in all of this: So much of Rose's game remains unchanged, save for that crucial, brutal make-miss binary.
No one expected Rose to return in peak form after missing an entire season, but given our last impression of him before the second knee injury, it's not going to be an easy process getting him back to that level in 2014.
That's why Rose's stint with Team USA is so important. Even though the quality of competition isn't close to what he will see in the NBA, it's still live game action against players who will be starting at the highest level of basketball.
Rose seems to be in a much better place now than he was at any point last season, throwing down a huge dunk during practice with Team USA that shows off those repaired knees in extraordinary fashion, via the NBA's Instagram:
We seem to forget that before Rose tore his ACL in the strike-shortened 2011-12 season, he missed 27 games in the regular season. It doesn't matter how talented you are: If you miss 181 games over three years while rehabbing, struggles will happen.
It happened last year in the brief glimpse we got of Rose. It will happen again this year when the Bulls step on the floor for the first time. He's going to be well ahead of where he was last year, though, because of his time spent playing for Team USA.
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