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Derrick Rose Can Return to All-Star Level

Even amid the hottest of hot streaks by the Chicago Cubs, the beginning of the NFL season and a Bears preseason game this week, and a negative Blackhawks story dominating the news, Derrick Rose has still found his way into the spotlight.

He was pictured wearing Dodgers gear at a game in Los Angeles earlier this week and was criticized for his decision to not play for USA Basketball in Rio in 2016. On the Mully and Hanley Show on 670 The Score in Chicago, the morning hosts brought Rose up in a conversation about which Chicago athlete they’d most like to see sucker-punched (a reference to the New York Jets story).

Rose was mentioned as if he’s done something to deserve being sucker-punched (if you could punch any Bull, wouldn’t it be Hinrich?), but dismissed quickly because, according to Brian Hanley, “he probably wouldn’t play again for two years.” I get that it’s fun for many to pick on Rose because he took his time rehabbing his ACL tear back in 2012-2013, but haven’t these jokes run their course?

Hanley took it one step further, however, later insinuating that he doesn’t believe Rose can be an All-Star again in his career. This is where I think it crosses over from tiresome nitpicking at a player for being cautious with his body to unfounded claims that are more based in personal opinion than fact.

So it was perfect timing that news broke later in the day that Rose has been working out hard with Russell Westbrook in Las Vegas, and seems to have his explosiveness back:

Rose’s trainer also weighed in with his thoughts, according to Sam Smith of Bulls.com:

“He looks like the old Derrick to me,” said Rob McClanaghan, Rose’s trainer, at the USA Basketball camp in Las Vegas. “Now having that full year (back playing), a good playoff run, everything, the mental stuff is back, too. I think everything has come together this summer more than last summer. He’s had momentum going into the summer unlike last year. Mentally, physically, he looks very good. There’s no reason he’s not going to have a good season.

“I worked out Derrick and Russell (Westbrook) together,” McClanaghan said Tuesday. “It’s amazing how competitive those guys are in workouts. Unlike many guys in this league, those guys together push each other. It was like getting back to predraft ’08. Like Russell said (of Rose), everything is back to where it used to be. Derrick’s timing is back and mentally he’s in a very good place.”

Of course, this may not mean a thing. While Rose was out and rehabbing his injuries, we were told (and believed) that he’d come back a better shooter because he hadn’t been able to do anything but shoot. We were told that he’d been hitting the weights with his upper body, and that he was ripped. Basically, we’ve heard all kinds of stories in the past about why Derrick Rose was going to dominate the league when he returned.

But he didn’t. Rose was rusty when he first returned from his torn ACL and then tore his meniscus. He was then rusty again last year during The Return 2.0 and had a somewhat disappointing season. He was only stretched out to about 30 minutes per game, shot only 28 percent from three-point range while hoisting a career-high 5.3 per game, and often had extremely high turnover totals. Not only that, but he had to have yet another surgery on his meniscus that forced him to miss a long stretch of games late in the year.

But after the clean-up of his surgically repaired meniscus, something weird happened; he started playing better. Granted, his shooting percentages were still down, but in the playoffs Rose played pretty well at times. He was able to be out on the court for extended time, even averaging close to 38 minutes per contest. In the six-game series with the Cavaliers, Rose averaged 21.7 points, 6.5 assists (to just 2.0 turnovers) and 5.3 rebounds.

Was it perfect? No. Did he look like one of the best players in the NBA on one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference going toe-to-toe with LeBron James? Yeah, he did, at least up until the last game and a half. Considering that he was only a month or so removed from a knee surgery at that point, I’d say he outperformed expectations in the playoffs.

It’s also worth mentioning that every offseason spent rehabbing an injury is an offseason spent not improving your game. We saw what that looked like for Joakim Noah this last season, who spent all last offseason rehabbing a knee surgery instead of working on his conditioning or some sort of offensive game in the post. If Rose can miss essentially two full seasons of NBA basketball and spend two offseasons rehabbing and still play as well as he did, imagine what he can do coming into a season healthy?

Say what you want about Derrick Rose on the court. He sometimes takes bad shots, his shot is too flat, he turns the ball over too much, whatever it may be. But the narrative surrounding Rose has reached comical proportions in Chicago, and it’s time some of us take a deep breath and hit the reset button on our views.

There’s no reason Derrick Rose can’t be an All-Star level player again in his career.

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