General manager Gar Forman’s optimism was the story Friday when he used a little levity — “There’s an old saying that surgery’s minor as long as it’s on someone else’’ — in explaining the upbeat prognosis for Derrick Rose’s recovery from “minor” knee surgery.
“After a short rehab,” Forman said, “[he] should be back to where he was.”
“Back to where he was” when? Back to where he was in 2011, when he was the league’s MVP? Or back to where he was this season before he suffered a re-tear of his meniscus — when Rose was yo-yoing his way to recovery from back-to-back knee surgeries?
It’s obviously a critical distinction. Although Rose was making progress this season, his inconsistency — no matter how much a part of the recovery process — was problematic for coach Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls. When Rose is shooting 1-for-13 or 3-for-15 or 7-for-26 from the field, the Bulls are not better off just having him on the floor. For what it’s worth, the Bulls are 8-10 when Rose shoots less than 40 percent from the field and 21-8 when he shoots 40 percent or better.
Eventually, Rose is going to have to define himself. Either he returns to something close to his MVP form — a hope that still breathes in that battered body of his — or his inability to explode, get to the rim and finish at the rim with any consistency forces him to reinvent himself as a very good but not great player.
But one or the other. And the sooner, the better. And while the recent meniscectomy looks like another hurdle that will delay that process, it might actually accelerate it.
The removal of the damaged part of the meniscus — as opposed to a repair, which was done the first time — and the much shorter rehabilitation should be an easier hurdle to clear, especially mentally. And much of Rose’s problems heretofore have been mental more than physical.
“He’s been through two tough [rehabs]; he’s gained confidence from that,” Thibodeau said. “The ACL knee is great. He knew [the re-tear] was a possibility going in. He’s in a good place. He’ll deal with it. He’ll get past this.”
In other words, don’t expect the circus we went through with Rose’s laborious return from the ACL in 2013, when he returned to practice in February and kept everybody guessing when he would play in a game — an anticipation that turned to disappointment and frustration when he never returned that season.
“When he went through that, he never got to the point where he was comfortable enough to be out there,” Thibodeau said. “Sometimes you never know how a player’s body is going to respond. He did the best he could. He couldn’t quite get there.”
The scenario is different this time. The Bulls have made it clear what their expectations are. Hopefully with this procedure and rehab, an older, wiser Rose has a peace of mind that will allow him to return when expected and give it all he’s got when he’s back on the court.
It’s about time. How appropriate that Forman made a point to note that a “full weight bearing” Rose stood on his own two feet as he left the hospital after the surgery. It’s time for him to do that figuratively as well — and distance himself from the inner circle that served him well to survive Englewood and make it to the NBA, but has been a detriment to him since he began struggling with injuries in the 2011-12 season. Rose has a chance to turn what appeared to be a devastating negative into a watershed moment in his recovery. His best chance to do that is on his own.
NOTES: Tom Thibodeau said Taj Gibson, who suffered a sprained left ankle Friday against the Timberwolves, is doubtful for the game Sunday against the Clippers. . . . Pau Gasol, who missed the game Friday with an illness, was feeling better Saturday and is questionable for Sunday.