Derrick Rose ready for season opener against Cavs

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By Sam Smith | 10.26.2015 | 8:05 p.m.

I was reminded Monday after Bulls practice about Jerry’s mom from the Seinfeld series. She’d heard about “Crazy” Joe Davola not liking Jerry. She’s stunned, in disbelief. “How can anyone not like you!” she exclaims. “Doesn’t like you? How can that be?”

And then there was Derrick Rose Monday concluding another long media session in the Advocate Center and being asked about having to endure yet another setback, his fourth surgery in the last four years, though expected to be in the starting lineup Tuesday when the Bulls open the 2015-16 NBA season against the Cleveland Cavaliers on national TNT.

“It’s part of it,” Rose said. “It’s a big picture. I’ve got to take the good with the bad and the ugly. It was ugly when I started training camp. Like I said, taking the good, how my life has been. I’ve been so comfortable; my family has been so comfortable, everybody is enjoying their life. It’s a lot of positives and a lot of blessings that come with playing this sport. Getting hit in the eye, all these surgeries, I’ve got to take it. This game changed my life too much.

“I don’t think I have to prove anything to anyone,” said Rose. “It’s just all about having fun. Enjoying the game, appreciating the game. Seeing how far this game has taken me. How comfortable my life is as far as I’m able to focus on certain things, focus on my profession without any distractions. I just feel blessed. I’m not expecting anything (Tuesday). I’m just expecting to win the game. For myself, I don’t care. As long as we win the game, I’m fine.”

Really, it’s amazing how many Crazy Joe Davolas there must be out there.

How can you not like him having gone through all he has?

I hear plenty of discussion, national and local about the Bulls, and so much is about Rose and that he doesn’t relate to his team and is some sort of distraction and it’s some fight over whose team it is and should be and some lack of respect and regard for all that is holy and good in the world. I have defended Rose plenty in the past. So full disclosure, as the saying goes, is warranted. But I never quite get this level of media and public outrage directed toward him.

All I see is a guy who works relentlessly to get back and play basketball.

It’s all he wants to do.

If you track all the players who have had ACL surgery in the last five years—to say nothing of a pair of MCL surgeries and now an orbital surgery—you won’t find one as close to the level of athlete he was other than Rose. That can only suggest someone committed to returning to help his team and play the game. No agenda there.

I know critics get upset with and condemn Rose about things he says; I prefer judging people by what they do. But I know it’s a world now verbally horrified to the point even college campuses and comedy audiences prefer ignorance to insult.

So sometimes Rose’s words come out like he’s driving to the basket with a cross over and hesitation and reverse and a floater and not in the preferred linear mode of expression. Like so many of the geniuses riding the El and in presidential debates. So a year ago, he jumbled up the concern for everyone about their life after basketball and mentioning his son’s graduation and some spend a year suggesting Rose doesn’t care about playing when he goes through multiple rehabilitations from injury without complaint. Then this year there was the horror of acknowledging he’ll be a free agent in a few years and noting the incredible spending going on around the NBA and that somehow is equated with selfishly caring only for himself.

Sure, the Bulls have not always been able to count on Rose because of all the injuries. Some hold that against him. It’s disappointing to everyone, though surely mostly to Rose.

It’s obvious that this guy just wants to play basketball and help the team.

The trait I probably admire most about Rose these days is his absolute lack of antagonism toward his critics. He obviously could not fit in the NFL.

Rose meets with media as much or more than anyone on the Bulls, at least when he is not in rehabilitation. He answers questions with sincerity and often humor. After the game in Nebraska last week he did group and individual interviews. He obviously has a strong faith as I have never heard him blame anyone for his injuries or ask why it befell him.

And now he’ll be in the starting lineup and open the season Tuesday against tormentor LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I’m very excited, very excited as far as what I just went through as far as the surgery, and just how much I miss the game,” said Rose. “My appreciation for the game just grew. My faith grew as far as all this is out of my hands. I can’t control this. I’ve just got to go along and take the good with the bad.’’

And because Rose is playing and in good health and basically of positive attitude, the Bulls again have a chance to defeat the Cavaliers.

“I’m just happy to be back playing again, so it really doesn’t matter,” Rose told reporters when hearing for the first time he’d be starting Tuesday following coach Fred Hoiberg’s comments to media. “It’s (left eye) still blurry a little bit. But every day, like I said, it’s improving. It’s a slow process. A little bit (of double vision still) when I look certain places. But if I concentrate really hard or focus on it a little harder, I can see more things at certain times. I see side-to-side, but usually when I look certain places I see double still. When I play I just play with one eye. Close the other eye until my vision is back clearer. I just close one eye and just go out there and play. It worked out for me.’’

“If anything (the surgery) helped me recover with my body,” said Rose, putting a positive spin on getting his face broken. “It helped me focus on other things, like my ankles and my hips, getting them loose and staying loose. As far as massages and all that stuff, I made sure I got the maintenance for my body.

“I think my body is fit for (the season) now,” said Rose. “I lost a couple of pounds. Last year I was at 212. This year I’m at 203. Same weight I was when I won MVP. So feel a bit lighter. And who knows? The way I was able to drive the ball [Friday playing 10 minutes against the Mavs with eight points], it felt good driving, and like I said, it boosted my confidence a little bit.

“Since the first day, I really haven’t had a problem with (wearing the protective mask),” said Rose. “When I’m playing I’m so focused on the game that you really don’t know that you have it on until there’s a timeout or something like that and you’ve got to wipe it off. But other than that I don’t care.

“It helped just confidence,” Rose said about playing in the closing preseason game. “I was playing with one eye and you can’t tell that I was playing with one eye. In any profession, that’s just like you all with having just one arm or one hand, something like that, and typing. If you’re able to do it, you’re able to do it. If not you gotta sit down. I think I’m a pro. I was able to go out and play, and it was a lot of positives I took away from that game.

(I will add I hear a lot of media complaining despite having two arms and two hands.)
“I really don’t want to jinx myself by talking about the future,” said Rose when asked about his health. “I just got back on the court. But if I could play in all 82 that would be great. Every day I’m improving. I’m playing with one eye and I’m able to play on the top level of basketball, and that’s the NBA. And I’m able to practice and everything. I believe a lot in coach Fred Hoiberg because he came and asked me before the Dallas game if I could play. For him to ask me, that let me know or verify that I was looking all right in practice. He’s a guy that cares about the athlete, that cares about the person that you are. If I was out there looking terrible, he wouldn’t have allowed me to play.”

Derrick Rose looks and feels good; there’s nothing better for the Bulls to hear.