Derrick Rose’s third rehabilitation effort from another knee injury isn’t like the previous two. The Chicago Bulls point guard actually has a chance to return in the same season and help the team make a run atop the Eastern Conference and possibly a return to the NBA Finals.
Rose underwent surgery to repair the torn medial meniscus in his right knee Friday and started rehab Saturday, and according to the Chicago Tribune he “openly vowed” to play later this season.
When Chicago first announced Rose’s latest injury, which he suffered in last week’s victory over the Central Division rival Milwaukee Bucks, the team outlined a four-to-six week recovery timetable, and Rose is apparently onboard.
Rose missed 154 regular season games after suffering two major knee injuries between 2012 and 2014, and the Bulls took a more conservative approach with his recovery those times.
The 2011 league MVP at times pushed back on fans’ and the media’s impatience with his long recovery times, but this go-round the injury isn’t nearly as severe.
After suffering the last two injuries, Rose’s psyche and perhaps a long-stewing fear to return to the court were speculated as reasons why he took so long to recover.
But Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who’s fully supported Rose throughout these injury-plagued years, still believes his high-paid superstar can return to the form that made Chicago one of the most feared teams in the East.
"He'll get past this hurdle," Thibodeau said to The Tribune. "He has made it through two tough rehabs. This one will be much shorter, and he'll get back to being who he is."
If Rose returns on the early side, four weeks after surgery, he could technically be back in the Bulls’ rotation on Friday March 20 in a home matchup against the No. 2 seed Toronto Raptors, who presently hold a half-game lead over No. 3 Chicago.
If its six weeks, then an April 3 return at home versus the lowly Detroit Pistons could be targeted.
Of course it depends on how well the Bulls can fare without Rose. Chicago has learned to play without Rose the last two seasons, reaching as high as the No. 4 seed in the East and the second-round of the postseason in 2013. Chicago is now 37-23 on the year following Sunday’s 96-86 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers sans Rose.
Should the Bulls be in a position to move past Toronto or the top seeded Atlanta Hawks, Rose could push to comeback after five weeks. Chicago has 22 games remaining before the playoffs, 12 of which will be on the road, and 12 against teams currently in the postseason.
The Bulls are 9-6 without Rose in the lineup this season, and have largely relied on a breakout year from All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler and big man Pau Gasol’s stellar play down low. Yet there’s no question the team is better with him on the floor. Several times throughout this season, Rose has looked like his old self. There was the 30-point, seven-assist outburst against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Feb. 12 that resulted in a 113-98 victory. Before that Rose scored 29 points and dropped 10 assists at the Boston Celtics on Jan. 16, and the very next night scored 23 points with 10 more dishes. January was by far Rose’s best month of this season, with averages of 20.3 points and 4.9 assists.