The notion that Rose has to change the way he plays, that he has to get rid of the violent stops and cuts and explosions, that he'll have to play a quieter game, if you will, that relies less on athleticism and acrobatics and more on guile (think Rod Strickland) isn't just the stuff of sports talk radio. There are current NBA players who believe that. There are Hall of Famers who believe it … that Rose was going to have to alter his game anyway as he approached 30, and after two knee injuries, the future is now for him. Rose, when this is put to him, doesn't want to hear it. "I don't think so," he said more than once. "I play a unique way of playing basketball. I can't change it." And before anybody even mentions future consequences, Rose added, "I could hurt myself 10 more times. … If this was to happen 10 more times I could deal with it … "
I love the defiance in Rose. I love that the disappointment and frustration of the past 20 months haven't drained the fight from him. Show me an athlete who's lukewarm about what he can do when faced with what seems to the rest of us like insurmountable circumstances, and I'll show you a guy playing at the local YMCA. When somebody asked if the Bulls should simply turn the page and no longer count on Rose leading the team into serious contention, he considered the question for, oh, a dozen seconds or so and said after some deliberation, "You can be a fool if you want to … I know I'm going to be all right."
And that became the theme for Rose's Q & A at United Center on Thursday … that he's going to be fine. It's not entirely fantasy. A torn meniscus doesn't equal a torn ACL. "I'm walking," Rose said. "I'm able to put pressure on it … able to put weight on it … I couldn't bend my leg (after the torn ACL) for three or four months, I can bend this one now."
Part of Rose's optimism is that he knows how much healthier he is because of the first rehab. What went largely ignored when Rose suffered his first knee injury was how lax he was when it came to things like eating properly, stretching, conditioning. Rose told me during a conversation before the season that pre-ACL injury he didn't stretch. His diet was about like mine. Since the meniscus tear he's already put together his own program that includes yoga and swimming. He recognizes now, "I'm always tight. My hips are always tight … I'm going to take a chance … see how my body takes it." Earlier Rose had said, "I'm all right. My faith is good. My spirit is good. I'll be back."
Does a healthier, wiser and more circumspect, determined-as-ever Rose mean his knees will stand up to the rigors of his game? No.