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Rose eyes return one shot at time

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013 12:20 a.m. CDT

More than 90 minutes remained before another Bulls tipoff Tuesday at the United Center, and Derrick Rose was the only player on the court.

It was clear that Rose has been out here for a while.

About three-fourths of Rose’s red warm-up T-shirt was drenched with sweat. The perspiration darkened his shirt in a U-shape that dips to the middle of his stomach and his lower back.

As Rose practiced jump shot after jump shot, he followed a specific pattern.

He started by taking several shots from the right baseline, then the right elbow, then the top of the key, then the left elbow, and finally the left baseline. He then circled back in the opposite direction toward the right baseline, making every stop along the way.

The 60-minute countdown clock was yet to start, and most of the stadium’s 21,000-plus seats remained empty. A song by Train – “Hey, Soul Sister” – blared from speakers above.

Rose was hard at work.

Dribble, step, jump, release: Swish.

Dribble, step, jump, release: Miss.

Dribble, step, jump, release: Swish.

On and on it went.

No brace covered Rose’s left knee, which has been the most talked-about body part in the city since he tore his ACL and crumpled to the court on April 28 in the Bulls’ playoff opener. Rose showed no sign of a limp, but he worked at about half-speed and did not cut side to side.

No one has put a date on when Rose will return. Whatever the date, it is getting closer.

Maybe Rose will be back when the Bulls return home Feb. 11 after a six-game road trip. Maybe he’ll be back Feb. 19 after the All-Star break. Or maybe the Bulls will play it safe and hold Rose out until March, which still would give him a few weeks to get ready for the playoffs.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is asked about the subject all the time, including Monday.

“He’s coming along,” Thibodeau said. “He still has a ways to go.”

As always, Thibodeau is tight-lipped about his MVP point guard. He acknowledges that Rose is taking part in certain aspects of practice. He offers little else in the way of details.

Asked whether Rose remains limited by doctors in any way, Thibodeau shuts down.

“He’s doing fine.”

Awkward silence.

A walk through the stadium’s tunnels and to the court provided more clarity.

Rose continued to shoot, seemingly oblivious to anything other than the ball and the basket. More fans filed into the building. Pop songs continued to blast through the speakers.

“We are not afraid …”

“Oh, sometimes, I get a good a feeling …”

“I’m looking to the sky to save me …”

Rose was determined to push his muscles to their limits.

It’s anyone’s guess as to how many shots he had taken by now.

Hundreds, easily.

Thousands, maybe.

He hit the front end of the rim on a jump shot from the key. He hit the front end again. Finally, he forced one through the net.

That shot seemed like a good stopping point.

Rose had other ideas.

He switched to his left hand and hit a mid-range shot. He fired up a few lefty 3s, as well, although most of those attempts clank off of the rim.

Rose’s upper body was strong, all right.

As for his left knee, we won’t know for sure until he attacks the basket during a game.

The next song that filled the stadium was by Mumford & Sons, a folk band from England.

It’s called “I Will Wait.” Maybe you’ve heard it.

“And I will wait, I will wait, for you…"

“And I will wait, I will wait, for you…”

Rose worked his way to the right baseline. He once again was shooting with his right hand.

Swish.

Swish.

Swish.

Rose turned his head and extends his arms toward a ball boy. His lips are easy to read.

“One more.”

Swish.

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