The Chicago Bulls' future, not its present (Getty Images)
Melissa Isaacson is a very good reporter who has been covering the Chicago Bulls for over two decades. The ESPN Chicago scribe can be trusted while relaying the news that a Bulls source has indicated that Derrick Rose has already been cleared to play basketball. Cleared by Rose’s own doctor, mind you, as Derrick recovers from an ACL tear suffered in late April of last year.
And what can be trusted from here on out is that the Bulls, in leaking this information, want Derrick Rose to play basketball. Right now, even, passing along the “we knew that already, dude”-news that Rose is in no danger of hurting his surgically reconstructed knee should he return to the court tout de suite. Even though that information was already in place in mid-February, when the Bulls cleared him to practice. Of course, the Bulls clear a lot of things.
Rose, who had surgery to repair a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on May 12, has been videotaped dunking off each foot, but more casually than he would during a game. A source said that although he has been practicing and scrimmaging hard, he told the Bulls that until he feels "in his mind" he can confidently dunk off his left foot in a game situation, he is not 100 percent mentally ready to return to competition.
The team is not pressuring Rose, the source said, but the Bulls are confident he will return this season and are still hoping for a mid-March return, which would mark 10 months after his surgery. The Bulls play at Golden State on March 15.
The source said the team has been assured by Rose's doctor that there is no more chance of the former MVP getting injured upon his return than anyone else and that the doctor told the Bulls that physically "he can play now." Rose is now dealing with the psychological side of trusting his body.
A lot of people, from a former MVP like Derrick to a scrub like me can “play now.” It doesn’t mean these people should, though.
Rose, in returning, would immediately help a wounded Bulls team that is consistently working without replacement hybrid guard Kirk Hinrich, while dealing with season-long concerns about injuries to Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and various other rotation members. This is a beat up squad even without considering Rose, and many Bulls fans (this one included) draw a direct line between the coaching and medical staff’s reluctance to sit Noah and Deng with both Noah’s fatigue-based lingering foot injury, and Deng’s awful recent shooting marks. The team plays important players heavy minutes even in blowouts, and the team’s medical staff has no issue clearing past and current players who probably shouldn’t be on the court at all for this sort of overuse.
That overuse had no impact on Rose’s freak injury in Game 1 of last year’s first round series with Philadelphia. It’s true that the 76ers had little chance of making up what was a 12-point deficit with about a minute and a half left in the game, when Rose fell, and coach Tom Thibodeau has been accused (again, from this guy and others) keeping Rose in the contest too long during blowouts, but a superstar’s presence on the court in that situation (especially in a playoff game) is routine. Rose’s injury is not the fault of anyone or anything, save for that ligament that went the wrong way.
The people that you do want to fault are the ones that are banging down the door, expecting Rose to rush back into something he’s not comfortable with. This isn’t about playing with pain, though we’re sure Derrick experiences some in the mornings after a workout or practice. This is about confidence, and this is about competition. Derrick, in his own estimation, is not where he wants to be physically. It’s his body, his choice as an individual who has clearly put in the work, and we truly have to walk an hour in this guy’s elaborate shoes.
Nothing’s comparable to this. This isn’t Bernard King, felled by the tear when 1980s-era medical science made it nearly a career-killer. This isn’t Tim Hardaway, a fine player and All-Star and one of the first to successfully return from this tear with barely a scratch, but not quite a franchise player. And though we do not want to dismiss the talent and drive of Ricky Rubio and Iman Shumpert, they weren’t counted on as being quite the franchise-savers upon their return from 2012 ACL tears.
Derrick Rose does not want to come back and float around to hit some nice jumpers and make a deft pass or 12. He wants to come back as DERRICK ROSE. This is the guy agreeing to dramatic shoe company advertisements hyping a triumphant return. A “12 points and five assists in a nice first game back from Rose …” does not a triumphant return make. He wants to cut. He wants to stuff. He wants to plant and pivot and have confidence and run the show again, as opposed to being part of it.
He wants to return at 110 percent. And if Derrick Rose believes he can hit that impossible number, then we should get behind that. That’s not fear. That’s ambition.
Derrick Rose has given us quite a lot, and now it’s our turn to give him some time.
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