MIAMI—Derrick Rose has referred to “the process” many times this year, and while many believe it’s some thinly-veiled nod to free agency nearly 16 months from now, it’s clear there’s a balance.
Between the here and now, and later, the future.
Rose announced he would play Tuesday against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena after missing three games with right hamstring tendinitis. He was deemed a gametime decision after Monday’s practice, and it’s likely the team will leave the door cracked open on the official injury report. But Rose was definitive in his statement.
“I’m playing,” he said. “I’m anxious, but while I’m out there I gotta play smart. Of course I want it back as soon as I step on the floor but it takes game shots, game reps.”
Rose wasn’t quite defiant, but as he’s done so many times, described his process and his thinking the best way he knows how, also while denying any notion he’ll “take it easy” when he’s on the floor.
“Hell no, I’m (gonna) try to go all out,” Rose said. “Feel my way early in the game and later on, or if may be off jump if I feel good. My body feels good right now, so who knows?”
Rose’s game has progressed since a rocky start to the season, as his February was his best individual month since March 2012, the month before he tore his ACL against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
“I’ve been through so many injuries,” he said. “Of course I want to be at my peak right now. But it takes building, putting the work back in, it takes patience with the rehab and the treatment and allow your body to react in its own little way.”
His body reacted after that great stretch of ball, a stretch where he’s had more 20-point games (10) than not (9) since the first of the year, where he’s shot 45 percent or better more times (12) than not (7) and in February, more games with five-plus assists (5) than not (3).
“I just gotta deal with reality,” Rose said. “The reality is I had surgery, I had injuries, and it’s something I have to live and play through. Trying to get back on the court as quick as possible. Anxious actually with the way I’ve been playing before I sat out. It’s all about building back up to that point.”
And in the process of building, he hit a slight snag. Not in his surgically repaired knees, but his hamstring.
“I wouldn’t say pain, I’d say discomfort,” Rose said. “I had one spot that was sore and I wasn’t used to it. I gotta build and be patient when I’m out there.”
He said he doesn’t know how close he is to being a finished product, or what “Peak Derrick Rose” is as he’ll approach age 30 in a couple years. But in the moment, his progression has been tangible progress—and the fact he’s not spooked about his body fighting back should be viewed as evidence.
And with his team at a critical juncture, tied for sixth with Indiana and Charlotte but an eyelash away from both the lottery and the fifth seed, his game rounding into shape is necessary for all parties.
“I love where I’m at,” Rose said. “Of course I’d want the team to be in a better place as far as positioning with the playoffs, but this is the bed we made. We gotta go out there and continue to play hard and make this push for the playoffs.”