ST. LOUIS -- After sitting out the past 17 months while recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, even Derrick Rose is a little surprised with how his well body is responding to NBA action. The former league MVP admitted as much after scoring 13 points in 23 minutes Monday in the Chicago Bulls’ 106-87 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
"I wasn’t winded," Rose said. "That’s one of the reasons why when I got the ball [I was] just trying to push it every time, and I’m surprising myself. I guess I’m in a little bit of conditioning. And having to guard Mike [Conley], chasing him around the whole court all the time, I think I did all right."
Through two games, Rose has been more than all right considering the circumstances.
Both Rose and the Bulls were confident that the 25 year old would return to his old form, but it doesn't seem as though either side expected it to happen this quickly.
Rose obviously still has some rust to shake off -- as evidenced by his free throw shooting in the first half, during which he went 1-for-5 from the line -- but he has quickly turned back into the same explosive player he was before the injury.
When asked to compare Rose's most recent performances, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau used a word that has defined Rose's career up to this point.
"Aggressive," he said.
Thibodeau pointed to several elements of Rose’s game that impressed him, even explaining improvement from the stripe.
"[He had] 10 free throws,” he said. “He slowed down; he’s calming himself down a little bit after the first couple and he started making [them], but you could tell he had a good rhythm going in the third quarter.
“He’s feeling great and you’re seeing those explosions to the basket and the burst of speed and attacking. I think he’s finding his rhythm. It’s also the rest of the team getting you used to the speed that he plays at."
Familiarity will be the key for Rose and the rest of the team as they continue on during the preseason. They must adjust to playing with each other again, a fact that everyone seems to be excited about.
Rose seems at ease on the floor again with his teammates, enjoying being able to run the break without worrying about how his body will respond.
"Tonight I think the first half was kind of jittery," Rose said. "I missed a lot of free throws in the first half, but that’s something that could easily be fixed. The second half felt much [more] relaxed and just trying to improve every game, just trying to get my rhythm back, my timing back, running the game, running the show and really trying to control the game."
After clearing the hurdle of finally playing in a game again, the key for Rose and the Bulls now is to just get as many reps as possible. Thibodeau extended Rose three more minutes than he had on Saturday in Indianapolis against the Pacers and figures to push that number up a little more Saturday when the Bulls face the Washington Wizards in Rio de Janeiro.
Rose continues to play without any hesitation on the floor and now just needs to make sure he feels comfortable with all of his teammates. To expedite that process, Thibodeau made sure to get Rose on the court with the reserves for a few minutes on Monday just so that they could get used to playing with Rose.
Even after playing 23 minutes, Rose wanted to stay on the floor before he iced his knees on the sideline to cap his night.
"I could always play more," he said. "I think I condition myself to play more, but I have to understand that [the training staff] is doing everything for my best interest. So I believe in them -- the training staff, the coaching staff -- to really manage my minutes."