The "MVP! MVP!" chants rained down on Derrick Rose just as they did before he was injured. Now that he's poised to return, the Chicago Bulls star figures to hear them again on a regular basis.
Rose believes he's ready to dominate again and help his team contend for a championship.
With training camp set to open this week, the former MVP point guard says there are no lingering issues with his surgically repaired left knee.
"Who knows when I'm going to get my rhythm?" he said. "It might take one game. It might take five games, 10 games. Who knows? I think me having that relationship with my teammates and them knowing that and not just depending on me right away, just knowing that I'm just trying to fit in with them, do my job where my job is to come in, run the game and get them open shots and play aggressive. I think the guys on the team know that. And me knowing that, too, I think it's going to be a smooth year, a smooth process."
Rose spoke Sunday before a youth event at the United Center to promote next month's launch of his latest signature adidas basketball shoe and apparel.
Rose hasn't played since he crumbled to the floor with a torn ACL near the end of Game 1 of the 2012 playoff opener against Philadelphia, an injury that sent the top-seeded Bulls toward a first-round playoff exit and put their championship hopes on hold.
Many thought he would come back at some point last season, particularly once he got medical clearance. It didn't happen and fans who watched Rose throwing down dunks before games wondered why. The fact that the Bulls clawed their way to 45 wins and the second round of the playoffs even though a long list of players went down with injuries and illnesses did not help the superstar's image.
The hype surrounding his return was another issue. It started building as soon as he went down.
Adidas released videos documenting his progress, but Rose mostly stayed in the background, saying little about his recovery. That changed midway through the season. Then his older brother Reggie ripped the organization in an interview with espnchicago.com, saying the decision to stand pat at the trade deadline would be a "big factor" in whether Derrick returned. That fueled speculation of a rift with the team.
Rose said he was close to returning but "had to really think things through."
"I'm 24," he said. "I have a bright future. Why not just take every day, take strides every day and just see when I'm comfortable enough to come back?"