"I expect him to come back and fully recover and be better than ever." -- Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau
We all do. But at the same time, when we get down to what's really in the back of our minds, we know that thinking is extremely wishful. Hopeful. OK, I'll be the one to say it: Doubtful.
Not that we doubt Derrick Rose's ability to come back 100 percent from the ACL tear that ripped out Chicago's heart in a way not felt since Gale Sayers went down, but a simple flashback of his season this season leaves us vulnerable to levels of pessimism that usually aren't in the DNA of most Chicagoans.
In his first three NBA seasons, Rose missed five games. This year: 27 games in four months. His body breaking down in front of us. And then this. An athlete's worst nightmare not requiring microfracture surgery.
Can he come back? Will he come back? When will he come back? All of those questions floating around in our heads, coming out of our mouths. But stuck in our hearts, the one question that instills the most angst, anxiety and fear: Will we ever see that 2010-11, pre-lockout, pre-new contract, pre-new adidas deal, best point guard in the game, MVP Derrick Rose again?
The fear of that answer being "no" is really what is at the core of it all.
Because it's not just about him coming back. I think, we all know that he will. As Stacey King says, he's "too big, too strong, too fast, too good" not to. But what will he return as? Five years after his 100 percent recovery are we still going to be waiting on the "old" Derrick Rose to come back or are we going to have to settle for a different player? Still one of the best but not the one we once had.
We've seen some of the best superheroes go down and come back anywhere from great to semi-great. From Amare Stoudemire to Al Harrington, Baron Davis to Jason Kidd, Philip Rivers to Tom Brady. We've also seen the dark side: Mo Vaughn, Carson Palmer, Vince Carter.
With Pooh, are we ever going to see another "What are you doing, Dragic?" moment? Those Allen Iverson in Vinnie Johnson's body with David Thompson ups moments? Those moments that made him special, rare, unique something we've never really seen before at his position. Are we going to be starting sentences with, "Yeah, well, before he got hurt, Derrick Rose was " Is he going to be this generation's Penny Hardaway? Will there be a biblical BC/AD-themed association to his career?
I hate to publicly ask all of these questions as much as you all probably hate reading them. But we all know they are there and can't be ignored. More than saying them in my out-loud voice, I don't want Rose to read them. He deserves more compassion, better than this from me. But he knows that nothing written here is something that is not going through everyone's mind at this time. More than likely not even his.
"One, the hardest thing is getting over the mental part, knowing that it could be a career-ending injury," Howard said. "And trusting yourself and your body to do the things that you used to do."
Two, he said, is the time frame with how long it takes to fully recover. "Eventually you get back to feeling 100 percent," Howard said. "But it usually takes a year to a year-and-a-half for that."
Which for Rose -- and us -- means next year's playoffs are probably also a wrap. At least for the original Rose to return.
But this is not just about the ACL, this is about this entire season for him. Five injuries. All different, in various areas of his body. This is about whether or not he did something different over last summer? Did he change anything in his offseason workout routine and pay more attention to fine tuning his game as opposed to his body?
The ACL is simply the heaviest straw.
This is also about the lockout and the effect the scheduling and compressed schedule had on someone who plays the way Rose plays. This is about the team and him possibly not giving his body full time to recover from one injury to the next. This is about that now infamous car accident that may have had more to do with the groin injury than anyone knows or will say. This is about the Bulls' medical staff and coaching decisions. This is about a young brotha just having a string of straight bad luck, a basketball year from hell.
Adversity is always God's test, so what happens when it comes face-to-face with reality? Which wins? Who wins? Or is Rose so special that he can/will overcome both this season's adversities and life's reality check? Can he pass God's test and come out resurrected? Bigger, stronger, faster, just as good?
Full disclosure: This is about everything. Our future with Derrick Rose, and his with the game.