Warning to the NBA: Derrick Rose has returned to form. In a recent interview to ESPN Chicago, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said superstar point guard Rose looks like his old explosive self.
The 24-year-old worked out with his coach last week, and according to Thibodeau the high-flying athleticism and breakneck speed Rose is best known for appears to be back.
"Watching the way he's moving now, there's a confidence," Thibodeau said. "[Reporters] may not have been able to see the total work he was putting in. But he was putting in an enormous amount of work each and every day. He just never got to the explosiveness he was comfortable with. I think he's there now. He feels great, and that's the most important thing."
The former MVP sat out the entire season due to a torn ACL he suffered in last year’s playoffs, and the return that many expected after the All-Star break never materialized even though Rose was cleared by team doctors in February.
The team insisted they would not force Rose back. However, once news leaked that doctors had cleared him, it was difficult for Chicago fans not to plead with Rose to return. Rose never publicly ruled out the chance he could return during the Bulls playoff run, and that only further incensed anxious fans who feared a championship window was closing.
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With their main offensive weapon sidelined, Chicago still managed to play some of the best defense in the league, and eliminated the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the Miami Heat in five games in the conference semifinals last month.
Thibodeau defended Rose's decision to sit out despite rabid criticism from fans and the media, who suggested the superstar was scared to return.
"The kid was being totally honest," Thibodeau said. "At the end of the day, you have to respect that. He wanted to be out there very badly. But no one knew when he would be ready, including him. It was a smart decision to wait. If you're not quite sure, and you're going to err, err on the side of caution. That's what he did. And now he feels great."
When healthy, Rose made the Bulls one of the most dangerous teams in Eastern Conference, and provided the best answer to the Heat before the Indiana Pacers emerged this season.
Rose is the only player not named LeBron James to win the MVP in the last five years. In the 2010-11 season, he averaged 25 points, 7.7 assists, and a steal while leading Chicago to the best record in the league.
This season the Bulls relied on a point-guard-by-committee, headed by veterans Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson, who was a leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate and exploded in the playoffs for 16.3 points and 4.4 assists.
Despite his excellent production and spark off the bench, Robinson will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He would be a solid backup to Rose, but his play earned him a solid pay bump this summer from any team looking for more depth in its backcourt.