Rose, who underwent surgery on May 12, 2012, gave an interview to Bulls TV that was posted on the team's website Wednesday.
"It was hard," Rose said of missing the season. "One of the hardest things I've had to go through in my life. After surgery, when you start running ... when you have an injury like this, there is stages you have to go through, I'm still going through my stages. I'm not done yet, but this is the most I've ever worked on my craft and the most focused I've ever been in my NBA career.
"I'm not a selfish guy at all, but having this injury and going through what I had to go through and being smart, it's something that I had to be selfish with. I couldn't worry about anyone else but myself and my health."
Rose went from a beloved hometown star who grew up on Chicago's tough South Side and went on to win rookie of the year and MVP with the Bulls, to someone whose loyalty to the team sparked a nationwide debate as critics wondered why he didn't return. His surgeon said recovery would take eight to 12 months and the final stages would be playing in games. The Bulls had expected a return after the All-Star break, and Rose never shut the door on returning, even during the second round of the playoffs. ESPNChicago.com reported on March 9 that Rose had been medically cleared to play.
His teammates and other observers of the team, including TV analyst Stacey King, said Rose had regained his explosiveness and was dominant in practice. He began practicing 5-on-5 on Feb. 18. Former players like Charles Barkley and Steve Kerr questioned why he wouldn't play in a game if he looked that good in practice and had been practicing for that long.
"When you're in practice, of course it's not like gamelike speed, unless it's like training camp," Rose said. "Gamelike experience is totally different when you have strategy, this and that, double teams. When I play, I get double-teamed a lot. We play the same defense [in practice] we play in the game, so there wasn't any double-teams. So I was able to roam around freely. And in a game ... I wasn't able to take on that double-team yet.
"Every day I was working out like my leg is going to feel better. I was pushing myself every day, eating right, trying to take care of my body so that I can be out there as soon as possible. But it didn't happen."
The Bulls beat the Brooklyn Nets in seven games in the opening round before falling to the eventual champion Miami Heat in the conference semifinals. What made the debate about Rose even hotter was how many Bulls players fought through injuries. His teammates passionately defended his decision not to play, and Bulls management also said the decision was his and there was no pressure to return.
"I was very, very impressed with them," Rose said of the Bulls' playoff push. "It seemed like they were playing for me. They saw how hard I was working in practice, just trying to rebuild my leg.
"All my teammates that were going through injuries, they used to tell me don't rush back just because they were going through stuff. So just to hear them say that, they knew I was trying to get back on the court as quickly as possible. They made a huge run at it. When they were playing, I told them things that I saw if they didn't see, or I was just working with them, just to show them I really cared about the team, and like I said they fought for me."
Rose said becoming a father helped him pass the time during his rehab.
"I didn't want to do [any interviews], to tell you the truth," Rose said. "I didn't want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to rebuild my leg and be around my son.
"That was the time where me having a son is huge for me. It's real big. My father wasn't ever in my life, so he's first, now and with anything."
He was asked if he had a message for his fans.
"Me saying it is something totally different," he said. "I think me going on the court and showing them and letting them know it was the right decision."