Derrick Rose's abrupt entry into the Twitter game on Sunday morning was met with a good dose of happy bewilderment, but the point guard's foray into social media was hardly done on a whim. Everything with Rose has been intricately calculated since he was a sophomore in high school. Does anyone really think the Chicago Bulls star joined Twitter to complain about his malfunctioning Skittles machine or tell the world about his favorite Vince Vaughn movies?
Rose's introduction to Twitter coincided with Team USA's gold medal game against Spain, a squad Rose would have been a major part of if not for the same knee injury that prematurely derailed the Bulls' championship aspirations in late April. But while giving shout-outs to his national team comrades was a nice gesture in his first tweet, Rose and his handlers clearly had an agenda in mind. The NBA's most introverted superstar is only jumping on the Twitter bandwagon as another way of marketing his comeback.
A few days later, Rose tweeted a picture of himself on a basketball court with the message "feels good to be back in the gym". It was retweeted over 8,000 times. The next day, adidas, his chief sponsor, released its first video chronicling Rose's return from a torn ACL. As if the narrative wasn't already strong enough to smack you in the face, the video ends with pulsating music and words fit for a superhero movie: "D. Rose will rise."
The adidas video quickly spread like wildfire, with people across my own social media landscape liberally using the word "awesome" as a main descriptor. In a sense, I suppose it is. Chicago has a preternaturally strong bond to its hometown hero; when Rose went down against the Philadelphia 76ers in first round of the playoffs, the city of Chicago went down with him. The sight of Rose completing push-ups and core work is a comforting one, if only because it means he's still alive. Just as the video was really gaining momentum, out came a report that was Rose was "two or three weeks ahead of schedule".
And that's when I started to temper my enthusiasm. Slow down, Chicago. Derrick Rose is still a ways away from returning to his former MVP self.
Rose performs plenty of drills in the adidas video, but there's one thing he doesn't do: run. It just reinforces Rose's comeback will be anything but a quick journey. And while positive reports of his progress are a welcomed sign, I'm not sure how much stocked can be placed into them.
Derrick Rose is less than four months into rehabilitating a 9-12 month injury. If anything, Bulls fans should be wary of the team expediting his return too much.
Everyone associated with the Bulls, from owner Jerry Reinsdorf to coach Tom Thibodeau, has insisted Rose won't be rushed back. We have no reason not to believe them. But what about in March when the Bulls are fighting in the lower half of the East's playoff picture? What about when Thibodeau is trying to win as many games as possible to secure the lucrative new contract the organization should have already inked him to?
It's easy to worry about Rose the same way parents worry about their children. To Chicago sports, D. Rose is everything. The Bulls were a barren wasteland before lucking out on that 1.8 percent chance to acquire his services in the 2008 NBA Draft lottery. Maybe it was rigged, maybe the Bulls simply fell ass-backwards into the superstar talent Chicago had been craving since Jordan. Either way, Rose's presence is the best thing about this sports town, regardless of how good we all think the Bears can be this year. Rose is to local pro basketball what Tiger Woods is to golf: an incentive to watch for the casual fan. Rose also represents to inner city youth what Barack Obama symbolizes to so many: unfiltered hope, and a sign that if he can make it, so can you.
Aggrey Sam's one-on-one with Rose at Comcast SportsNet was the final piece of the puzzle for the first phase of the comeback narrative. Rose sounds confident and well-spoken in the video interview accompanying the piece, though Comcast's decision to intersperse all of Rose's previous injuries only had me worried sick again.
When Rose does finally return to the court, who's to say he won't get hurt again?
This is my biggest worry. While some question if a player so dependent on speed and quick-twitch ability can remain a perennial MVP candidate after such a serious knee injury, I really believe Rose will still be one of the best players in the league when he returns. Modern medicine has come a long way, and D. Rose will learn how to adapt his game. All the great ones do.
What scares me is the thought that Rose's torn ACL can be partially attributed to all of the less severe injuries he suffered during the last regular season. "The hip bone's connected to the back bone", and all of that. Rose needs to be completely healthy before he gets back, no matter the pressure or the hype.
Particularly after an offseason in which management jettisoned so many of his crucial teammates, Rose shouldn't be worried about getting back on the court until he's absolutely capable of doing so. The organization had higher priorities than winning in 2012-2013, and Rose should, too.
When Rose finally does come back, it will be a reason to celebrate. Until then, let's be mindful of how severe an ACL injury really is. Don't rush back, Derrick. There's plenty of time to bring Chicago a championship.