Happy Birthday, Derrick.
And it should be a happy one Sunday, No, 27, for Rose and for Bulls fans, as well
No, there probably won’t be any candles.
That’s because Rose’s eyes are sensitive to light following his surgery last week for an orbital fracture.
But there’s still a light shining on the Bulls’ future and Rose because Rose’s recovery from his major surgeries ranks among the most remarkable and impressive, frankly, in the history of sports.
Even after a second meniscus surgery last spring, Rose averaged 20.3 points in the playoffs, which was in the top 20 in the league in the postseason. He also was in the top 20 in assists (eighth) and minutes played and in the top 40 in steals, demonstrating quickness and explosion even after a third surgery.
Though the eye surgery was a setback, Rose still prepares to enter the 2015-16 season off his first summer of unlimited full workouts since the summer of 2011 and with perhaps the most successful recovery from anterior cruciate surgery in NBA history.
Which has to be credited to the effort Rose put into his many recoveries.
Virtually everyone who has seen Rose practice this summer, including Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, said Rose has looked explosive. He certainly seemed to be in his return for lasts season’s playoffs with a game winning shot and most of his scoring going to the basket.
The truth is hardly anyone who has gone through the ACL surgery has recovered to have the physical abilities Rose maintains.
That can hardly be considered a coincidence or just good luck.
Consider this list of most of the top players who have had ACL surgery from the most recent:
Many returned to have productive NBA careers, but Rose is virtually the only one among the great athletes to return having superior athletic ability. Perhaps not the ignition he possessed before, though basically no point guard in the history of the NBA played with the athletic abilities Rose demonstrated early in his career.
No point guard—and you can look at all the great ones--ever attacked the basket and exploded up into dunks the way Rose did. Russell Westbrook is probably close, though there remains much debate how much of a point guard he is as opposed to a fabulous wing athlete. We won’t see that again from Rose, and perhaps no one else.
But that Rose has been able to return to play with so much agility, dexterity and jumping ability is a testament to what he has put into his many rehabilitations. And not without anxiety.
Because as much as doctors assured Rose he would be able to return to play, no one could tell him whether he would be able to play at a level and a manner similar to the way he did. He showed in last season’s playoffs, shooting aside, that he could.
Though Rose never talks about it, there had to be long and painful times during lonely rehabilitation when Rose didn’t know what his basketball future would hold. Or if there would be one.
There have been frightening times, like the game a few years back in his first recovery when Rose’s leg went numb and he feared his career might be even be over. Then there was the meniscus injuries and more surgeries and more long and reclusive recoveries. It’s why you hear support from so many teammates and leaders like Joakim Noah; they see how hard Rose works to return and how solitary and difficult it is to endure so many rehabilitations.
The fun is in the playing; not in the preparation.
It’s probably also that ascetic devotion to his craft and his career that’s enabled Rose to prosper and, frankly, not respond publicly despite the swirl of debate and controversy around much of what he says and does.
Frankly, few would remain mute and in control when faced with so much negative reaction, especially in this era of social media.
Many in government and certainly entertainment and sports have fallen victim.
Yet, Rose never has publicly assailed or challenged his accusers or doubters.
Perhaps he understands it’s not in the debate but in the devotion.
This latest kerfuffle was in Rose’s somewhat unsteady comments on media day last Monday with implications about his free agency in 2017. Wrapped around comments routinely made by players about taking care of family was an outrage around some perceived lack of appreciation because Rose has earned so much money from the Bulls and been injured so often. Not his fault, of course. But athletes suffer with that.
There also was discussion about how much Rose owes Chicago, it also being conveniently forgotten whether anyone in Bulls history has donated more financially to the city than Rose, who made a $1 million donation to the After School Matters program for teens. Luol Deng has been a model of community involvement as has Noah, though few have made the personal financial donations to match Rose’s generosity.
It’s not something Rose will bring up, just as he doesn’t about the nightmares going through rehabilitation and the frustrations surrounding taking steps back every time there is optimism.
Like last season when Rose completed a healthy summer playing for USA Basketball and then had to miss eight of the first 12 games of the season with ankle and hamstring injuries. Rose then returned after yet another meniscus repair to be a star player in the playoffs. Perhaps not as great as some would like and perhaps not as efficient as Rose would hope. But he was there for every game and just about every minute on the court to help give the team a chance.
Consider that this young man was the star of the NBA just five years ago, one of the greatest young players to come along in the history of the game, a league MVP at 22, the youngest ever.
What a career path that suggested.
Sure, Rose was well compensated for that by those who wanted to invest then in his future.
Considering the injuries and setbacks Rose has had, he probably could have walked away long ago with the money. But Rose is about the game. So he has sustained through a seemingly incomprehensible series of injuries and misfortunes. All to continue to play basketball. Because that’s what he does and that’s who he is.
And that Rose still seems primed to have a prosperous basketball career is probably the best present he could have.
Rose is expected to be able to join the team to at least view some practices this week with the first preseason game home Tuesday against Milwaukee. Hoiberg said he could play opening night. Many returns; not all so happy. Just like with everyone's birthdays. Here comes another.
So happy birthday, Derrick.