It's probably not the play or production anyway that will convince a lot of people anyway. The way to be convinced Derrick Rose is back to his old self and possibly better is to listen to him talk about his knee, how he feels, how he feels about his play on the court, and where his game is. You don't want to see the hemming and hawing of last season when he missed the entire 82-game campaign; you want to see the confidence and excitement in his comments after his preseason win over the Detroit Pistons.
After scoring 22 points in 22 minutes against the Pistons, Rose seemed happy to talk about his physical condition and the mental aspect of his play. He's full of confidence in the way he moves throughout the game and it's allowing him to make the old decisions he used to make while feeling like he's a more explosive player now, which could be a scary thought. From ESPN Chicago:
Derrick Rose issued the kind of warning after Wednesday night's preseason win against the Detroit Pistons that is sure to make players and coaches around the NBA take notice.
"I think I'm way more explosive now," Rose said after scoring 22 points in 22 minutes. "Like getting to the rim. I think I can take contact a little bit better. And as far as jumping-wise, I think I can jump even higher. They tested my vertical -- I increased it by 5 inches. I just didn't show it yet because there's no need to."
"The biggest thing is after you have an ACL or any injury, it's the mental part," Rose said. "And for me not to think about anything no more and actually be reacting to the defense and the offense, it feels great knowing that I'm safe. I don't have to worry about anything at all, even if I go to the hole and get contact and fall any type of way, that I could easily get up and bounce right back and play the way that I normally know how to play."
While the added inches in his vertical leap are a nice thing for breakaway dunks, him feeling confident in finishing through contact and not worrying if his body will be able to take the pounding on those plays is probably more important. Rose needs to feel like he can absorb contact and still convert shots in the paint. It's how he ended up with 10 free throw attempts in 22 minutes Wednesday night and that's how he'll truly get back to his dominant self.
Rose's game took a turn for the better in 2010-11 when he increased his free throw attempts per game from 4.3 to 6.9. When he stopped avoiding so much contact and started putting more pressure on defenders by drawing fouls and making them pay at the free throw line, his dominance shot up and he earned the 2011 MVP award. It was at that point that Rose went from being a budding star to one of the best players in the league.
Getting back to being that type of player after the major knee surgery and the 18-month layoff will be the key to the Bulls being title contenders this season. If he feels more explosive and isn't worried about his knee, it will show in his play.