Putting Rose’s Comeback On Ice

Derrick Rose's rehab from a torn ACL has been unpredictable. (USA TODAY SPORTS)

Derrick Rose's rehab from a torn ACL has been unpredictable. (USA TODAY SPORTS)

CHICAGO — The Bulls have done the right thing by providing him space, giving him time, allowing him to call the shots. But now, with the calendar about to take another flip, it’s their turn to take ownership of the situation.

This isn’t about pressing Derrick Rose to hurry back. This is about telling him to stay out.

Yes, for the good of Rose and the team and the future, the Bulls need to make the tough but sensible decision to shut him down until next season. Call off the debut before it even happens. Wipe 2012-13 off the books and chalk it up to crummy luck. Dump the ridiculous notion of Rose shaking off the rust and the doubt and throwing himself into the intensity of the playoffs.

Really, what’s to be gained by allowing Rose to play this season, even if he wanted to? A few wins in the playoffs? Maybe even a round? Is that really worth the risk, however small it might be, of something going terribly wrong and then dealing with deep regret?

It doesn’t take a degree in psychology to realize that Rose himself has a few doubts, a few worries. He isn’t sure. He doesn’t feel totally comfortable, not now anyway, with how he’ll respond to the stress of slashing and cutting and being the player who won the 2011 MVP. Doctors cleared him to play weeks ago but the mental part of recovery form knee surgery is just as difficult to overcome. Especially when the standards are high, as they are for Rose. He wants to hit the ground running, not wondering. He wants the results to come suddenly, not gradually.

And he wants to know if the time is really right, or if the idea of suiting up after last year’s May 12 surgery is just too much, too soon.

Over the last month he has held a ritual that’s watched by seemingly a million eyes: the pregame warmup. It’s where Rose goes through a battery of shots, dribbles and cuts, breaks a sweat and then retreats to the locker room to fetch a suit to wear for the game. He admits to the usual soreness that can be expected of someone trying to adjust to a high degree of activity, but no setbacks.

When asked about where he’s at in the process and if he’s ready to return, his answers are always the same, if not word-for-word. He speaks cryptically, saying “it could be tomorrow” and “maybe not for a while.” And last week he added a twist: “Nobody knows but God.”

Well, maybe it’s time the Bulls play the role of the Almighty and put the issue to rest.

There’s no urgency here. He’s not Kobe Bryant, a 34-year-old on the clock who’s had multiple surgeries himself. Rose is 24 with years of basketball ahead of him. The Bulls aren’t a win-now team with a narrow championship window; they’re built with the next three-four years in mind. Given all that, and what Rose means to the franchise, isn’t it better to be as cautious as possible and place Rose and any miracle hopes on ice?

Yes, that would mean dumping a Disney scenario where Rose returns good as new before the playoffs, leads the Bulls to a stirring upset of LeBron James and the Heat and then steals a championship from Oklahoma City or the Spurs. Well, even if Rose hadn’t gotten hurt, would the Bulls be that much better than everyone else?

They have time. Joakim Noah is just getting started in his prime. Luol Deng is one of the iron men of the NBA. A portion of the supporting cast is young. Carlos Boozer might be a concern, but hasn’t been this season. Rip Hamilton is on his last legs, but the Bulls have always needed a two-guard in the Rose era — so what else is new?

Anyway, they win with coach Tom Thibodeau preaching defense and Rose dictating the offense, and those dynamics won’t change between now and November.

If Rose returns before the playoffs he’d like go through an extended safety period where the Bulls strictly ration his minutes, the method the Timberwolves used for Ricky Rubio, and his impact in that scenario would be mild anyway.

“It’s coming,” Rose said last week. “I’m just taking my time. I’m just being patient. I’m not panicking or anything. If anything, I think I’m going to be a better player.”

That may be true, and if so, that’s something the Bulls and the NBA and any basketball fan would love to see.

Just not now. Not this season.

9 thoughts on “Putting Rose’s Comeback On Ice

  1. Absolutely disgusted with his attitude. He’s been cleared to play!!!! PLay!!! If i was a teammate I would be saying, Lets go DIVA!!!!!! My heads not clear, I dont feel right….waaa! I’m more sick of this than is Favre coming back!!!

    • If D. Rose knew you felt that strongly, I’m sure he’d play 40 minutes tonight. Have you made your wishes known to him and those teammates who surely agree with you?
      Oh, and a suggestion: Use more exclamation points. They make you sound wise and mature.

  2. I completely agree that the Bulls have no chance at winning a championship this year, and it’s ridiculous to say that Rose should come back on that basis. That said, I’m not as sure that he should wait until next year to come back.

    It sounds to me like at this point it’s mostly a confidence issue. The only way to get past that is to play in games. While I don’t think the Bulls stand much of a chance of winning a championship next year, either, I’d argue their chances are better, so if Rose coming back for a few games this season puts him in a better spot for next year I say it’s a good idea. There is still the risk of reinjury of course, but there’s always that risk.

    I am getting tired of the Chicago media circus around Rose; if the Bulls were a legit championship contender with him on the court I could understand it, but they’re not. With or without him, they look like a team that’ll win at best one playoff series this year.

  3. D Rose is no DIVA!! Rose is going to come back at some point and shut all the haters up,can not wait. When Rose is ready real Bulls fans will be very happy,and feel bleesed we have such a good player with good values to watch! I am also looking forward to the playoffs with or with out Rose the Bulls are going to be hard to beat.

  4. Good article Shaun.
    I totally agree that he should be shut down for the year by the Bulls.
    One, it takes the pressure off of him.
    Two, it eliminates the media circus .
    Three, it allows the team to focus on the here and now and not the what if.
    To all of the misguided folks who say ‘he was cleared he should play’, get over yourselves. This is his life and his career.
    There are such things as self fulfilling prophecies. And the surest one is if you feel you will get hurt, it probably will happen because you will be playing tentatively. It sounds counter intuitive, but if you are hyper-aware anticipating something (sic) bad will happen, you actually lose focus on protecting yourself from the mundane.
    i.e. you are trying to avoid contact, but then you mis-plant your feet while jumping to avoid such, and you twist your ankle.

    The Bulls have time. Rose has time. He is an exceptional athlete and that will compel him to compete…when he feels he is ready

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