The stage of set for the Bulls’ season opener, and after PA announcer Tommy Edwards introduces the first four Bulls players, Derrick Rose will come out in uniform and not a suit.
The encouraging 10-minute stint against the Dallas Mavericks was good enough for Fred Hoiberg to say Rose will be starting against the Cleveland Cavaliers in a nationally-televised contest to officially open the NBA season, but both are cautioning against taking any long-term views for him or the team based on one night.
“It’s a long year,” Hoiberg said. “That’s where in regards to Derrick, you have to be a little careful. It is a long season. It’s a marathon. You have to prepare your guys as best you can and try to keep them healthy. It’s great to get him back.”
He won’t be on any minute restrictions, per se, but he hasn’t played any organized basketball in quite a while, so it wouldn’t be surprised to see him get pulled after an early adrenaline rush.
Rose is still recovering from his fractured orbital bone he suffered on the first day of training camp, but the left eye is considerably better than it has been in recent weeks, erasing the doubt many had about his availability for the season opener.
“When I play, I just play with one eye,” said Rose, who admits he still has double vision but will play with a mask for however long he deems necessary. “Close the other eye until my vision is back clearer. I just close one eye and go out there and play. It worked out for me.”
It worked out for him Friday in Lincoln Nebraska, where he provided 10 minutes of scintillating play, albeit in a preseason capacity. He was on the run, driving to the basket as opposed to settling for jumpshots, which he only did once.
Being a little lighter at 203 pounds as opposed to 212, he feels his body is able to get there quicker and avoid direct contact that wears on the body over time.
“Same weight I was when I won MVP (2010-11),” Rose said. “So feel a lit bit more lighter, and who knows? The way I was able to drive the ball [Friday], it felt good driving, and like I said, it boosted my confidence a little bit.”
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When he was told Hoiberg announced to the media he was starting, he smiled like a kid who’d never been amongst the first five. As he stated before about the injury, “at least it’s not my legs”, referring to three knee surgeries he’s had since the 2012 playoffs.
“I’m very excited, very excited as far as what I just went through with surgery, and just how much I miss the game,” Rose said. “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 just got to go along and take the good with the bad.”