INDIANAPOLIS – Derrick Rose said of his return tonight, “It’s about time.’’
Chances are he’s not alone in that sentiment.
When the 2010-11 NBA MVP steps on the court against the Pacers this evening, he will do so with 526 days since the last time he played in an NBA game. A torn left anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the first game of the playoff series against Philadelphia in April 2012 cost Rose the remainder of that postseason run, and then all of last season.
So what is expected of Rose when he returns in the opener of the preseason?
“Just play my game,’’ Rose said of what he is looking to accomplish. “I play an aggressive game. I’m just not turning down the open shots. We’ve got to shoot the ball when we’re open and that’s why we’re trying to communicate that to the whole team. If we don’t shoot the ball when we’re open our spacing is going to be messed up, so it’s taking open shots and getting the ball where it’s supposed to be.’’
Coach Tom Thibodeau said Saturday morning that the plan was to play Rose in two or three six- to eight-minute segments, but that was subject to change depending on how Rose looked out there.
“We’re going to see where he is,’’ Thibodeau said. “A game is different. If he needs rest, we’re going to give him rest. If he’s OK, we’re going to play him a little bit more.’’
During the rehab process, Rose added at least 10 pounds of muscle. The early reports from teammates that have scrimmaged against him since the start of training camp have basically been summed up as Rose is a beast at the rim now, even stronger than he was before in finishing plays.
Because outside shooting was all he could really concentrate on for a good part of the early days of the rehab, Rose admitted that his outside shot is now better.
And then if the speed and quickness is close to where it used to be? No wonder teammate Carlos Boozer described the new-look Rose as “scary.’’
“I’m excited, but at the same time you have to look at it like it’s preseason,’’ Rose said. “It’s for everyone to get the wrinkles out. I’m playing with new guys and other guys I haven’t played with in a long time so it’s me adjusting to how they play and adjusting to the NBA game period. It should be fun. The experience should be something new. It’s like a new beginning for me.’’