If anyone questions Derrick Rose's heart, hustle or desire to ball again, may they be castrated with a basketball rim-shaped cutting device. Those who said he wouldn't play this year should be tossed off a cliff into "sports oblivion." 


On Saturday night, Rose was on the court. In his third game back from knee surgery, Rose had 22 points (including three of his trademark rim-rock-or-die drives to the rack in the fourth quarter), six rebounds, eight assists, three steals and zero turnovers in 28 minutes, 29 seconds. Oh yeah...y'all opposing coaches better start double-teaming that man.

He's heating up and finding that consistency in his game. He never was a three-point shooter, so those stats hold little interest. He's becoming a better basketball player and raising his IQ. 

"When you miss three years, damn near, you see everything," Rose said. "I'm just being patient a little bit more and there's no point in me forcing anything by the way that they're playing me. They're not double-teaming me, they're letting me do whatever I want to do, it's just all about me catching rhythm"


Injuries are such a complex issue with world class athletes and Rose has had more major than most 26-year old NBA MVP's, but you have to admit, he keeps coming back like an untreated rash. It may not be at the pace that others want, but it's obvious that he's not ready to pack it in as some suggested based on his various comments as he battled injuries, depression and squandered title opportunities the past few seasons.


"Every game I play is a stride," Rose said. "Every day I go in there and work out, do my rehab or training, it's a stride. It's a step forward. So every day is a positive day, even if I have a bad game or if I'm having a bad day, I try to erase it the next day."

When Rose had the meniscectomy procedure on Feb. 27, the optimistic spin was that he could possibly return this season. He was only supposed to be out for six weeks at most. Bulls fans have surely heard that before -- like Britney Spears songs on the radio in the late 90s and early Y2K  -- but being that hometown teams are delusional concerning their superstars, some gullible zombies believed he would return this season. Just as they believed the last two times his knees disrespected him.


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In the past, Rose wanted to take it slow and get the rehab process right. There was no reason for anyone to believe he would gun it back this time. After all, Rose still has much at stake and a world of unfulfilled promise. He had that magical MVP season in 2010-11 and Chicago was a No. 1 seed entering the playoffs, but they fell to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals. Optimism was abound for the following campaign until all hell broke loose. Rose tore an ACL in the 2011-12 playoffs, missed the entire following season and in the 2012-13 season he tore his meniscus in November.


Even though he made Bulls fans and management no guarantees on his return, the fans had their minds set on Rose swooping in and being the savior for a Chicago team that has fought valiantly in the playoffs without him. With LeBron James now building in Cleveland, Bulls fans can only think about what could have been. The fans wanted Rose back on the attack overnight. Somewhere along the lines, both parties lost a bit of trust in each other. In November of 2014 when Rose made controversial comments about his future and Charles Barkley called them "stupid," the comments not only drew the wrath of Sir Charles, but they struck a negative chord with a lot of people. It seemed to some like Rose was throwing in he towel, if not physically then mentally. 


"When I sit out it’s not because of this year. I’m thinking about long term," Rose said.  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. (I’m) just learning and being smart.”


Following that statement and Rose's most recent injury, social media posts, some Bulls fans and various sports outlets and analysts shifted their hype machines behind Jimmy Butler. That shift in confidence has little to do with Butler (taking nothing away from the fact that he has blossomed into a dynamic player in Rose's absence). He's a solid baller and at times he plays at an All-Star caliber level, but NBA Nation is more disappointed with how Rose's career has transpired than anything and after this latest injury, most of the known basketball world had a "time to move on, he may not be coming back" attitude towards Rose's fate. This time, however, Rose said he would be back. He basically threw precaution to The Windy City. Still, nobody outside of Chicago and Rose groupies made much of it. Most everyone, including the Bulls organization just prepared for another compromised postseason without their ace in the hole. 


Then Wednesday, April 8th happened. After a 20-game absence Rose returned to the starting lineup on a minutes restriction and scored nine points in a loss to the Orlando Magic. 




On Thursday night things improved as he and Pau Gasol did their 1-2 in a statement win over Miami, combining for 28 points. 


Then Saturday, April 11th IT happened. Derrick Rose had his minutes increased and had a vintage D Rose game. For the first time in a long time he didn't look like a compromised part trying to fit. Rose spent a large portion of that game -- a 114-107 win over the Sixers -- taking control of the situation down the stretch. He was the go-to guy in crunch time and he looked like the unstoppable force that we have come to deeply identify with on so many levels. What you were witnessing was the lightening in a bottle that Chicago has to catch for 16 playoff wins. If Rose can consistently play at this level (which is still a cut below his MVP form) and Tom Thibodeau can finally get the regular lineup of Rose, Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol on the court (Saturday's game was just the 21st time, improving to 16-5.) then Chi-Tizzle can start legitimately dreaming big.

And Derrick Rose gets props for totally cleaning up a touchy situation. The fact that he returned on schedule and without hesitation proves that he is going for the gusto. He and brother Reggie are finally convinced that the Bulls have all of the ingredients needed. And this time they will have their mighty mouse to lead the way.

Who would have envisioned this three months ago?