Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose returns to practice

Rose discusses eye injury, playing with a mask and expectations for the new season

By Sam Smith | 10.16.2015 | 9:25 a.m.

Heeeeeeeee’s back! Derrick Rose….

What, is it February 2, already? Yes, Yogi, it is like deja vu all over again.

Derrick Rose Thursday met reporters in the Advocate Center for the first time since media day and his fractured orbital bone the first day of preseason practice and declared himself anxious to return from injury.

Opening night, Oct. 27 against the Cleveland Cavaliers?

“Who knows?” said Rose, his left eye clearly still unclear and swollen. “My eye’s getting better every day. So that’s the only thing I can worry about right now. Wait and see how I feel, when I’m able to open my eyes and the double vision is gone. Every day, it’s improving. It could be quick. Who knows? It’s no timetable. It’s whenever I can go out there and play. I want to play. I’m anxious to play. I’m getting jittery just watching them play and the freedom we have playing. I want to be out there.

“If I’m willing to go and I know there’s nothing in my way,” Rose said, “I’ll play (opening night in 12 days).

“I’m just happy that it’s not my knees,” said Rose. “My eyes, anything else, I can deal with it. As long as it’s not my legs I’m fine.”

Out of the mouth of babes?

No, he’s not a kid anymore, his eighth season, though as we know not all of them in which Rose has played. Few in the history of the game have encountered the highs so high—league MVP and starting All-Star with the league’s most popular selling jersey—and the lows so low, like missing a season after ACL surgery, two meniscus surgeries, considered a pariah by some in his home town and then after a healthy summer needing eye surgery after being injured in the first practice of the preseason.

He’s not exactly a saint, but Rose in an upbeat and light session with reporters after practice also demonstrated something of a Christian level of acceptance and forgiveness.

I seemingly feel more upset about the condemnation of Rose for his articulation and injuries than he does, imagining more of an Old Testament remedy.

“I’m used to it, I’m numb to it,” Rose said about criticism. “Everybody knows why I’m here. That’s why I picked this profession, to win games no matter how we win games. It’s all about winning. The No. 1 goal is to win the championship. This is my eighth year in the league. I was hoping I would win one before then, before my eighth year, but it’s all in God’s plans. So just got to follow along with it and keep my goals pretty strict.”

Thus Rose expanded and expounded:

  • He’d wear a mask, perhaps the rest of his career. “Who knows, it could become an alter ego,” he joked.

  • He feels like a rookie again in some sense, trying to impress new coach Fred Hoiberg and assistants like Jim Boylen.“This is my first time (in a while) practicing with new coaches,” Rose said. “It’s been a couple of years, so I’ve been trying to impress them a little bit. Whenever they came in I tried to impress Fred Hoiberg. I let them know that I’m a quick learner. With Jim, let him know that I work hard. It’s fun, but it’s challenging at the same time. I won’t have it any other way.’’
  • He feels like he can be among the league’s assist leaders and do what the team needs. “It’s a lot of open space, a lot of drives (available),” Rose said about the offense under Hoiberg. “There’s no reason why I shouldn’t average over seven assists with all the shooters that we have and the way he lets us shoot the ball. I’m excited. I’m anxious, actually, to go out there and play. Whatever makes the game easy. Even when I came back and practiced before training camp, when I was playing I wasn’t being (as) aggressive. I was just trying to get the feel for the offense and just get used to pushing the ball the way he wants us to push it. He yelled at me a couple of times for not pushing the ball and or not getting the ball up the court quick enough. I just have to reprogram myself. My whole life, I was used to playing an uptempo type game. Under (former coach Tom) Thibs, it’s kind of a slower offense. We’d run here and there we’d run. With Fred, he wants one pace but under control.”

Rose, obviously, has been through worse given the severity of his multiple knee injuries and literally years missing following the April 2012 start of it all. So what’s another two weeks with your eyes closed? Which is basically what Rose has endured of late before joining the team earlier this week. He shot on the United Center floor before the Wednesday’s preseason game and with the team Thursday. He’s not cleared for contact yet, though it could come soon. Obviously, as Hoiberg said watching former teammate Reggie Miller go through the same ordeal, you have to get beyond the fear of being hit.

“When I first put (the mask on Thursday) it was a little bit uncomfortable,” Rose admitted. “But through practice I got more comfortable with it and it feels alright. I was able to shoot; my eye opened up a little bit more. You can’t ice it, so just got to live with it, looking like this (swollen). It felt like a blowtorch on your face (after surgery). Just staying in the house for two weeks. Felt like I was in jail or something. I haven’t had pain since the first couple days after the surgery. After that, it’s just getting it open, waiting for my eye to get right in the center because it’s a little bit higher than the other eye right now. But just happy to be out, happy to be with my teammates and happy to be back on the same mission previous to this [injury]. I think (the mask) is kind of similar to (Russell) Westbrook’s where it doesn’t have anything under the nose so I can breathe a little better. That was my only option: Did I want something under my nose or not. I hate getting my face touched. So if it’s a thing where I come out and I’m hot (succeeding), I’m feeling it, and we’re playing good, you might see it for the rest of my career.

“I just know there’s a bigger plan,” said Rose. “I’m doing all I can do on and off the court to try to be the best person I am and be the best athlete I can become. That’s the only thing I can do (with) the injuries and all that.”

Rose said it was a blow from Taj Gibson that did the damage.

“I just remember passing the ball, and I didn’t know who hit me,” said Rose. “At first I thought it was big Chris (Felicio). But looking at the film they showed me it was Taj. Just a basketball play. It comes along with it, I guess. I can’t open my other eye. That’s when I get double vision. But with one eye open, I think I could play pretty good. Just another cool story I can tell.’’

Rose sure has some stories to tell. He and the Bulls are hoping for a happy ending. And an end to this repeating chronicle.