There's a powerful person behind Derrick Rose's participation with USA Basketball that prefers to remain behind-the-scenes.
Jen Swanson, whom the Bulls hired last summer as their Director of Sports Performance, is more qualified than anyone to monitor Rose's rehabilitation, knees and body. And the fact she is traveling with USA Basketball and in consistent communication with Rose, who returned to practice Thursday after three days of rest, is an important security blanket for the Bulls, who still believe reward outweighs risk in this endeavor.
"Jen's doing a great job of making sure I'm coming in every day and stretching and trying to get my flexibility right through my whole body," Rose said during the Las Vegas minicamp in late July. "She stays on me, and I'm happy the Bulls got her here."
The Bulls hired Swanson away from Athletes' Performance in Los Angeles after she worked extensively with Rose during his rehabilitation from his May 2012 surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee. She quickly developed a strong rapport with players during her first season and then unexpectedly developed an even stronger bond with Rose when he tore his right meniscus in November 2013.
"What she has done with the team has sort of been the next step for our league," Bulls coach and Team USA assistant Tom Thibodeau said. "It's a piece that probably was missing. You have a trainer. You have a strength coach. And now you have a person who works with both and where if you're weak in a certain area, they can sort of lock into that. So I think she has been a big plus for us."
In a rare interview last October, Swanson detailed her reasoning for leaving her successful career as a physical therapist who worked with a wide variety of professional athletes.
"I worked with athletes during their offseason," Swanson said. "So when it came time for their season, they would leave me. You weren't a part of that major side of their career. I wanted to be in the trenches and be a part of it all, win or lose."
Whether the Bulls win or lose depends largely on Rose staying healthy. Swanson, who is scheduled to travel to Spain for Rose's participation in the FIBA World Cup, will be critical in that goal.
"Jen's great," Rose said.
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