Perhaps the Elusive One, the Reclusive One should now be called the Optimistic One.
Or the Masked One.
Derrick Rose walked over confidently to the assembled media after shooting around with his newly-fitted mask at the Advocate Center and delivered his first comments since his orbital bone surgery two weeks ago, while not ruling out a debut on opening night Oct. 27.
“No pain,” Rose said. “I haven't had no 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.”
He spoke so positively about where is now, it appears he’s made enough progress to at least be optimistic about having his name called when the Bulls take the floor against the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers at the United Center.
“It’s whenever I can go play. I want to play. I’m anxious to play. I’m getting jittery just watching them play and the freedom we have playing,” he said. “If I’m willing to go and I know there’s nothing in my way, I’ll play.”
Despite the left eye looking like he’d been in a bout with Sugar Ray Leonard or Thomas Hearns for a few rounds, barely staying open at times, he seemed to be comfortable with the temporary reality of having accepted his left eye has gone through this type of trauma.
The dark moments, both literally and figuratively, directly after his procedure were the worst ones, but he quickly quipped with a level of humor, “I’m happy it’s not my knees.”
Referring to the knees that have often failed him and played a part in the derision he’s endured subsequently, he described the darkest—and worst moments of the last two weeks.
“Getting out of surgery. Throbbing, it felt like a blowtorch on your face,” Rose said. “Just having to stay in the house for two weeks. Felt like I was in jail or something, 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].”
Rose has spent plenty of time watching this team with his one good eye, and sees an open floor with plenty of opportunity to involve his teammates to the tune of at least seven assists per game, numbers he reached in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, his best as a professional.
“I’m cool with that. Whatever makes the game easy,” Rose said. “Even when I came back and practiced before training camp, I wasn’t being 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.”
And if need be, he could play with the left eye not at maximum efficiency because a Rose with one eye is better than many with two. He hasn't yet been cleared for contact, taking things a step at a time while keeping an eye to the near future.
“I think I can. I can’t open my other eye,” Rose said. “That’s when I get double vision. But with one eye open, I think I could play pretty good.”
When asked if he ever wondered “why me?”, Rose said the temporary feeling didn’t last long, a sentiment many in the Chicago basketball community could wish they shared.
“Not at all. I will say the first day it's like that,” Rose said. “But after that, I just know there's a bigger plan. 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. All the other things, like the injuries and all that; I'm just happy that it's not my knees. My eyes, anything else, I can deal with it. As long as it's not my legs, I'm fine.”
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The film showed Taj Gibson as the culprit who hit Rose with an inadvertent elbow on the first day of training camp, the day that was supposed to signal the new beginning for the player who had a few too many new beginnings in short time.
“It comes along with it I guess. Just another cool story I can tell my son, for real,” he said.
As the swelling went down, the optimism rose even as the criticism surrounding his Media Day comments began to swell even more, as if the injury was some karmic payback for an awkwardly-placed answer.
“Everybody knows why I'm here,” Rose said. “That's why I picked this profession, just 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 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.”