Penny Hardaway can see the similarities between he and Derrick Rose.
The former Orlando Magic star and fellow Memphis alumnus marveled at the freakish athleticism that Rose displayed before his first knee injury in April 2012. He empathized with Rose's circumstances after that point, having gone through his own knee problems at a similar point in his career.
Now, as Rose tries to help lead the Chicago Bulls to a championship, Hardaway is hoping to watch Rose make it back to full health -- something Hardaway wasn't able to fully accomplish after knee injuries derailed his career.
But as someone who has dealt with career-threatening knee injuries, Hardaway can tell that Rose's game has changed.
"I look at his footwork. At first he would really dig in and get his speed," Hardaway said on "The B.S. Report" with Bill Simmons. "Now it's almost like he's jogging on top of the court. He's not digging in anymore. He used to just go all out -- 100 mph. To me it's like he plays at 70, 75 now and sometimes he'll turn the jets on. It's just the pain."
"There's the hardest thing -- when you cannot be as athletic or perform at a level you really want to. Your mind is telling you, but your body is not allowing you."
Rose has repeatedly said there hasn't been much pain after games this season, but Hardaway says pain is something he had to deal with throughout the back part of his career.
"I felt pain every night," Hardaway told Simmons. "After games it took me a long time to walk to my car and the driving home it took me a couple of minutes even to get out of my car and extend my legs and just walk. And I was playing in full games."
Despite his personal experiences, Hardaway managed to hang in the league for 14 seasons and became a four-time All-Star. He last played with the Miami Heat in the 2007-08 season and sees the parallels between where he was, and where Rose is now.
"It's just amazing when you see Derrick because it did remind me of myself," Hardaway told ESPNChicago.com over All-Star Weekend. "We were at the height of our games when injuries started to plague us, especially in the legs. We were both very athletic, Derrick is very athletic, and his athleticism was a big part of his game just like mine was. And to see that -- he's still so young.
"I started to have injuries when I was around 27, 28 so that was a little -- he's still young enough to recover. I just hope that he does recover fully to where he can get his speed, his quickness and athleticism back to where it was."
Hardaway, who was one of the first players to have microfracture surgery, told Slam Magazine in a 2012 interview that he had six knee surgeries in his career. He said he hasn't spoken to Rose since all the injuries starting piling up in the former MVP's career, but he is hopeful that Rose can make it back to an elite level.
Hardaway said the mental part is just as difficult as the physical in regards to returning from big injuries. Rose has admitted as much throughout this season.
Hardaway has been down the road Rose is on and knows that the Bulls star is going to have to deal with smaller injuries as he tries to make his way back. Rose was in and out of the lineup in November because of ankle injuries and missed a game on Jan. 10 because of knee soreness.
The good news for the Bulls is that Rose has not missed a game since that time, playing in 16 in a row.
"You're going to always have little nick-nack injuries, hamstring, groin, calf, just overcompensating because you really want to play and that comes from wanting to be on the court," Hardaway said. "Maybe playing too many minutes early on, and sometimes those things happen. So it's always going to be the little small [injuries]. As long as there's not any major injuries anymore, I think he'll be fine."
Bulls Hall of Famer and team ambassador Scottie Pippen has no doubt about Rose's game.
"Derrick Rose is back," Pippen said. "He's like any other player in this game, he's going to have ups and downs -- but he's back. I think people should stop judging him on whether he has a great game or a bad game. He's human, he's over his injuries pretty much and he just has to continue to play through this and get into the postseason where he really wants to perform."
Rose, who is averaging 18.9 points and 5.0 assists this season, below his career averages of 20.6 and 6.5, is averaging 22.6 points over the final 15 games before the All-Star break.
"It's definitely not fair, but it's the reality," Korver said of the criticism that Rose is dealing with. "Derrick is such an important figure in Chicago on so many levels, so many ways. Everyone cares how he's doing. People care for different reasons. But there's so many people who have such an interest in Derrick Rose. With today's day and age and with all the technology, and all the voices that you're able to have no matter who you are, there's so much out there. He came off -- he got so high, so quick, as far as being so young, the youngest MVP, there was so much attention around him.
"All of it was positive, more or less, back then. He's had these injuries and injuries happen, they just happen, and Derrick's trying to take care of himself the best that he can. I don't fault him in any way at all. Is the scrutiny fair? It's the just the reality. Whether or not it's fair or not, it's just what it is."