Can Derrick Rose come back 100 percent?
BY RICK TELANDER Sports Columnist December 5, 2013 9:56PM
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Updated: January 7, 2014 6:41AM
Derrick Rose soared into our lives like a comet, leaving a trail of glitter behind him that shimmered with gold.
Then, almost as quickly, the comet sputtered and detonated.
What remains of Rose was at the United Center on Thursday when he spoke to the media for the first time since having surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee.
It’s still Derrick Rose in front of us. Still a kind, slow-speaking, dedicated, humble athlete. But the young man — the best player in the NBA in 2010-11 — is wounded again and sadness and limitation are all that sparkle around him now.
‘‘I know that I’m going to be all right,’’ he said.
But he doesn’t. He can’t.
Did he know he would tear the medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee a year and a half ago?
Did he know he would rip his meniscus while making a routine turn in a game against the Trail Blazers two weeks ago?
No. And he has no clue how he will recover from this latest physical insult.
Yes, he’ll work hard to rehab. We know that.
‘‘I’m never gonna stop,’’ he said. And we believe him, and we love him for that.
Isn’t such a stance the essence of the champion: never giving up, no odds too high, no setback too great?
But we don’t live in a magic world. Mickey Mouse isn’t real, and Walt Disney can’t have his artists draw Cinderella slippers on Rose’s feet. Two bad knees in the NBA is pure danger.
Why did they blow out? Why, by the end of this season, will Rose have played in only 50 of the last 260 or so games?
‘‘I think the first one — I wasn’t taking care of my body like I was supposed to,’’ he said. ‘‘So, of course, I could blame that [on me]. . . But this one . . . just from turning and running back down the court? Nothing I can say about it, nothing I can do about it.’’
Except he can rehab and hope the curse is over. Yet sheer effort and desire cannot, in the real world we exist in, overcome the laws of science.
A repaired ACL might be close to perfect, and a stitched-together meniscus — the padding between the femur and the tibia — can replicate the original, untouched one. But no orthopedic surgery makes joints better than the normal and unscathed ones.
All of us know people — real athletes and Sunday warriors alike — who have torn their meniscus. My son tore his playing high-school football, turning and running like Rose, untouched. Because he was young and healthy and had a full sports life ahead of him, the surgeons decided to stitch his meniscus back together rather than shave it down and remove the jagged edges.
Crutches, a removable cast, and months of rehab ensued. Six months later, during lacrosse practice, my son tore the same meniscus again. This happens. Frequently. There is not much blood flow deep inside the knee. So damaged pieces were removed, and my son played four years of D-I lacrosse, and now, at age 23, has an arthritic knee that swells up. Bone on bone.
Some things can’t be willed through or past.
Rose needs every bit of his body to play his ferocious, attacking style of basketball, a style he said, again, ‘‘I can’t change.’’
So at 25, he is on crutches again, determined to lead the Bulls again, to do everything again.
‘‘If this were to happen 10 more times, I’d be able to deal with it,’’ he said, meaning if that’s what his game mandates.
But how can the Bulls build a team around him? Around a man who might not be there?
Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, a new point guard — who do the Bulls keep, trade, draft?
And every time we watch the rebuilt Rose fly up the court after his return, won’t we fear one more explosion of the streaking comet?
Basketball is Derrick Rose’s world, and without it, has he got a life? Yes, he has $340 million coming in over the next decade from Adidas and the Bulls. Sweet. He even admitted he has ‘‘everything I want.’’
Except he ‘‘can’t play the game I love playing.’’
And asked whether the Bulls should move on without him, he asked for the question to be restated, paused, said, ‘‘What can I say to that?’’
He paused even longer. To me, he looked ready to cry.
‘‘You can be a fool if you want to,’’ he said at last.
We don’t want to be that.
But our hearts are broken, too.