“I wish y’all would stop rushing Derrick back,” said Anthony, whose Knicks, winners of 13 straight, play the Bulls on Thursday night. “Please. He shouldn’t come back until he’s about 110 percent ready. I don’t think he should come back if he’s not ready to go out there and play. If he can’t compete at a high level, then what’s a couple more months going to do? What’s two more months going to do? I don’t think he should come back, and that’s just my opinion.
“I really don’t know where he’s at with his rehab and stuff like that, but I feel bad for him because I know he’s got to deal with that every day, he’s got to deal with that question. And nobody really knows on the outside what he’s really going through, what his body is going through. So until he’s 100 percent right, I would hope he would sit out.”
Anthony probably has a point, although he also has some vested interest in Rose not rushing back. Heck, sit out next season, too, just to be safe, you know?
But then we get to the thing I find myself pondering on: “A source told ESPNChicago.com in early March that Rose has been medically cleared to play but needs to regain his confidence in his left leg before he will return.”
Fact 1: Rose is medically cleared to play. For a month, and counting. Given how valuable Rose is to the team, I’m guessing the docs are being pretty conservative in their diagnosis, too.
Fact 2: Despite being physically okay, Rose is refusing to play.
I’m sensitive to the psychology here because, as the kids these days are fond of saying, “I been there.” In January of 1998 I destroyed my left knee playing hoops. It sounds, from all I can gather, like Rose’s injury was pretty similar to mine: torn ACL, torn meniscus. I promise you, he has my full and unconditional sympathy. I have never felt pain like that and the whole surgery and rehab process never stopped sucking.
But … Rose is reluctant, whereas I couldn’t get back to playing fast enough. Rose had surgery on May 12, 2012 – 11 months ago to the day. I was back playing baseball – with limited activity – in four months. I was back on the basketball court in six months.
I hear you laughing. You’re thinking “bitch, please – you ain’t never been Derrick Rose.” Which is true. At no point was I placing my knee under the kind of competitive stress that that Rose sees every trip down the floor.
On the other hand, I was 37 by the time I had surgery and was well past my physical prime, whereas Rose is a superhuman elite athlete in the heart of his healing peak years. So, to some extent, maybe we’re talking six of one, half dozen of the other?
I don’t know Derrick Rose, but I know why some are questioning him. He doesn’t want to come back until he’s 100%. He wants to be mentally confident. He has no interest in returning until he knows he can be a premier contributor to his team. I get all that and I respect it.
But if it were me, I’d have been back on the floor the second the physicians cleared me. I think that’s probably true of a lot of pro athletes. And while you don’t hear his fellow players calling him out, I guarantee you that a lot of them are questioning his courage in private. You’re medically cleared. Your body is ready. Your team needs you. And you’re sitting it out down the stretch because you want to make sure you’re 110%? Derrick, at 85% you’re still one of the best players in the league. Right now, you’re a difference maker.
And yet … he isn’t playing. He hears the whispers, he hears the veiled implications in the punditry, so he knows he’s being talked about. He knows people are questioning his courage, his commitment, his cojones.
I’m worried about Rose because I know what it’s like that first time you step on the floor. The first time out on the break. The first time you make a pivot in a crowded post. You cannot help being afraid. You can’t. Your body is ready to dance, but your mind remembers the pain of the injury and the months of instability as you rehab. You remember vividly being unable to do a single revolution on the exercise bike because the knee is still too swollen. You remember the first few nights after the surgery, when you have to sleep strapped into a machine that flexes your leg – 45% to -5% and back again. You remember how hard it is to sleep with that damned thing. You remember how something as simple as taking a shower or fetching a soda from the fridge becomes an ordeal. You remember being helpless.
I remember these things to this day and I promise you, Rose does, too. And right now, his fear is winning out over his desire to compete.
His fear is winning out at a time when many of his colleagues and who knows how many weekend warriors across the country would be battling their orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists demanding that they be allowed to play.
I don’t know what this means about Rose long-term. Maybe he’s back on the court and playing like the injury never happened a week fro now. Maybe he never again, ever, reacts in a way that would tell you he was ever hurt in the first place.
Maybe. But right now, he’s telling us something about who he is.
I’m the last guy in the world to advise someone coming back from injury to push it, to take chances. I don’t want you back until the experts say you’re ready. But once your body is ready, I can’t help noticing when the mind lags behind.
And I can’t help wondering what this means about your commitment down the road.