COMMENTARY | Any athlete can tell you a knee injury is the worst kind to have both physically and mentally.
I know this may shock you, but the knee is an important part of the body when it comes to mobility. But it's so important to professional athletes the leagues should offer insurance on them. That's why Derrick Rose continues to sit on the sidelines. He lacks the confidence to come back and now it's time to ask the hard questions in the front office: "Will he?" and "Do we want him to?"
Rose tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last year against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first game of the first round of the playoffs. Talk about bad luck then, but now it's worse: He's not back and probably should be. The cynical me would say he's milking the Adidas campaign for all it's worth, but I've locked the cynic away today.
In March 2013, Yahoo! "Ball Don't Lie" blogger Kelly Dwyer mentioned Bulls fans should be patient as Rose recovers from this injury. And then he was right because it was still a little too early after the medical clearance to play. Smart. Knee injuries are scary and if you return too soon, there is an increased risk of a career-ending injury. Downright terrifying. But now that it's two months after being medically cleared to play, one has to wonder if Rose will again.
In Game 3 against the Brooklyn Nets a picture was worth 1,000 words when Derrick Rose sat on the bench in a suit instead of a uniform. It was crystal clear that he's likely done and Bulls fans everywhere wept inside--or, if you're me, openly and unashamed. Our franchise point guard who was going to get us our seventh championship in a 20 year timespan can't help us now. His replacement, Kirk Hinrich, is now also injured leaving us with Nate Robinson, who is perpetually puzzled at the idea of a shot clock much like John Lucas, III. The Bulls are 7-16 without Hinrich and fell in Monday's game to the Nets by nearly 20 points, who now head to Chicago with momentum. This game is pivotal for the series and if we ever needed a strong point man and game changer, it would be now.
This is where Derrick Rose needs to return. Even Steve Kerr, former Bull guard and now TV analyst, said Rose "owes it to his banged up teammates" to step in and play some time.
To be clear, no one is asking him to start and no one is expecting him to play a full game. He's not superhuman like Adrian Peterson, who returned this season after an ACL tear to have the best season of his career, and we shouldn't expect him to be. While Rose is an exceptional athlete, he's no superstar--a comment that would get great protest in Chicago. But it shouldn't. A superstar is fearless and confident he or she has done his or her best to recover properly and come back to help the team closer to the time of being medically cleared to play.
Some don't even wait for the clearance or ignore the doctors altogether.
Michael Jordan, for example, played one playoff game with a stomach virus. He had the whole shebang: Fever, chills, nausea and what soon follows, but he still went out and played not even in the ballpark of 100 percent. He acknowledged his team needed him and he rose to the occasion. Granted it's not a knee injury, but getting too dehydrated could have also been life threatening. On one hand a possible dead career, the other holds someone who could possibly be dead dead, which to you is worse and who overcame more adversity? Who shows no fear? I'll give you a hint: It's not Derrick Rose. Rose may be no Jordan even when healthy, but when Chicago thinks superstar, Jordan is the first name across its collective lips.
Fear has gotten into Derrick Rose's head and it's not just vacationing; it's taken up residence. When an injury starts to get in your head, you may never be the same player you were. You may never play again. You may never become the fearless superstar. Right now, Rose isn't even in the same class as the superstars.
"It's not a competition," I hear you cry. But it is. Sports is all about competition and who's the best and Rose doesn't make that cut. Not yet. His postseason return decision can impact that status.
If the Bulls make it out of the first round, they play LeBron James and the Miami Heat, which is when they'll need rust-free Rose most. It's possible he's taking a little extra rest for that series. That's not acceptable though when your team is on a downswing in the playoffs. You may not see that series so why not help them get there?
This is where superstars are made and if he want to be part of the elite, it's time to put up or ship out. And if he doesn't put up, should the Bulls choose ship out?
I don't want to see Derrick Rose leave Chicago in the short run either. Like all Bulls fans I think he is a key franchise player in Tom Thibodeau's strategy and it's mostly based off speed and creating opportunity, which relies heavily on the knees. If he's not confident he can come back two months after being medically cleared, is it possible he'll never be Derrick Rose again now?
That was always a concern, but now it's practically reality. That's what the front office needs to think about both now and after the playoffs. Should we try to wheel and deal Rose before he starts to lose value?
And I hate to admit it, but it's not a bad thought to toss around. They can get a high caliber healthy player on the hope that Rose will come back as good as new. It's a big risk, big reward situation. If they take the gamble and Rose doesn't return the speedster he once was, they're ahead. If he returns the same player he was, they very well may have made one big mistake.
We can all agree Rose belongs in Chicago. He's a hometown boy with a lot of potential, but that's all it is right now--potential with the possibility of no fruition post-injury.
We've now done our part in being patient. It's his turn to show Chicago that he wants us as much as we need him.
Tim Bearden has covered professional sports in Chicago since 2010. He's extensively covered theChicago Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs and White Sox. He graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in journalism and has written sports for Buzz Magazine, the Chicagoist and his own blog FantasyFreakout.
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