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Counting down 2014’s biggest Chicago sports stories: No. 6

The Sun-Times is counting down the 10 biggest Chicago sports stories of the 2014 calendar year one day at a time.

No. 6. Derrick Rose’s comeback, sluggish start and return to form

Has anyone been in the spotlight more than Derrick Rose for the past two months?

First came the Bulls’ star’s much-ballyhooed return, which was hyped from the moment he went down with his second season-ending knee injury.

He was ESPN’s cover boy before the start of the 2014-15 season, even though it was unclear how good or strong Rose would be upon his return.

Rose continued grabbing headlines but for all the wrong reasons, injuring both of his ankles in a loss to Cleveland on Oct. 31 – the second game of the season.

He missed 10 games, which was a tough pill for Bulls fans to swallow on its own.

Things further deteriorated after these comments:

“I’m good, man,’’ Rose said when asked to assess how he’s been playing.

“I feel I’ve been managing myself pretty good. I know a lot of people get mad when they see me sit out. But I think a lot of people don’t understand that when I sit out, it’s not because of this year. I’m thinking about long term. I’m thinking about after I’m done with basketball, having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to.

“I don’t want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past. Just learning and being smart.’’

Now Rose was dealing with even worse verbal grenades than simply being called “soft.”

Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley went off on the Chicago star during a TNT telecast, calling Rose’s comments “flat-out stupid” and “disrespectful.”

For the past month, though, Rose has let his play on the court do the talking for him.

He appeared in 11 straight games from Nov. 24 through Dec. 15, averaging 16.3 points and five assists.

Rose missed two games with an illness this month but has been in his best form since. He scored 29 points against the Raptors on Monday, then 25 more against the Wizards on Tuesday.

Rose has been out at times, up at times and down at times, but at no point has he lacked for intriguing storylines.

We’ll continue with the start of the top five on our list of Chicago’s biggest sports stories of 2014 on Thursday.

Here’s the list so far:

1. Revealed Dec. 31

2. Revealed Dec. 30

3. Revealed Dec. 29

4. Revealed Dec. 26

5. Revealed Dec. 25

6. Derrick Rose’s comeback, sluggish start and return to form

7. Jon Lester signs with Cubs

8. Jose Abreu takes Major League Baseball by storm, wins AL Rookie of the Year

9. Blackhawks’ playoff run reaches Western Conference Finals; Kane, Toews sign 8-year extensions

10. National Labor Relations Board says Northwestern football players are employees, orders union election