WASHINGTON -- Every move Derrick Rose makes creates a story. It used to be that the Chicago Bulls star's play did most of the talking, but now that he has suffered another season-ending knee injury -- and has played in only 50 games over the past three seasons -- he once again has to take on a different role for his team.
That would be one of rehabbing athlete and supporter of his teammates. It's a role that no athlete wants, especially one as proud and competitive as Rose, but it's one he must begin to embrace. He took the first step in that area Wednesday when he walked out a few moments before tipoff of the Bulls' game against the Orlando Magic. Dressed in a khaki suit, Rose gave some high-fives to his teammates and then sat on the bench for the rest of the game.
It was the right move for everyone involved.
During the regular season a year ago, Rose rarely appeared on the bench with his teammates. Rose usually stayed back in the locker room when the game started even after he began traveling with his team. He didn't want to serve as a distraction to his teammates, a wish that Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls backed him on.
The first time Rose sat on the bench last season, during a March 3 game against the Indiana Pacers, cameras focused on his every move. The questions started immediately regarding whether Rose's presence on the bench meant that he was close to a return that would never come.
Now things are different.
The Bulls already have ruled Rose out for the season. Thibodeau wouldn't even commit to Rose practicing with the team at some point later in the season when asked about the possibility before Wednesday's game. Knowing that, some would argue that Rose shouldn't even be out there in the first place. The mere mention of Rose's appearance on the bench set off a wave of comments on social media, good and bad. With that in mind, Rose could do his rehab work and then sit in the back as he always did last season, staying out of the spotlight.
The difference is that for both Rose and the Bulls, he is better off being out in plain view. He is the face of the Bulls franchise. Fans want to know that he's all right and he's working his way back. They want to know that he supports his teammates and wants them to succeed. After a year full of bad PR because of his decision not to play even after being cleared by the Bulls medical staff, it can't hurt Rose to sit on the bench and cheer on his team for the rest of the season.
He spent part of Wednesday's game talking to teammates and giving them some encouragement. It hurts him not to be on the floor and the frustration was written on his face at times, but he made the most of the situation and did what leaders do. Having spent so much time away from the Bulls, it's good for Rose to be part of the day-to-day fabric of what's going on.
The next move for the organization is to make sure that Rose's latest comeback is much more transparent than the last one. To that point, the Bulls should schedule monthly media sessions with Rose so that he can give periodic updates regarding his condition. A Bulls PR representative said that Rose would not be speaking before Wednesday's game and reminded reporters that Rose isn't required to speak again until he starts practicing -- something that may not happen again until next season.
Even if he's not required to speak, Rose and the Bulls should be proactive regarding his situation. Despite all the injuries, Rose remains one of the most popular professional athletes in the world. People want to know how he is doing and how he is feeling. Even if he isn't comfortable with his reprised role as a player who is stuck watching from the bench, his presence there is an important reminder that he disappeared from the public eye completely.
Soon enough he will be back on the court and hopeful that his battered body can withstand the grind of an 82-game NBA season. In the meantime, he and the Bulls have made the right choice to get him back around his teammates during games. It's a positive step for all parties involved.