3-on-3: Season-long worry about Rose?

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In what has become a familiar phrase early this season, Derrick Rose will be a game-time decision against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. Hobbled by an injured big left toe, Rose likely will miss his third straight game and might not be back until Monday against the New Jersey Nets.

Will that be enough rest for the reigning MVP? Or will the Bulls and Rose be dealing with this uncertainty all season? Our 3-on-3 panel weighs in on that and more:

1. Fact or Fiction: Rose’s turf toe will be a problem all season.

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. I don’t have a crystal ball, but while I feel like this injury will reoccur over the remainder of this truncated season, I don’t think it will limit Rose in a way that dramatically affects the Bulls’ season. Rose is mentally tough enough to play through nagging injuries, and given the timing of this toe injury, I’m betting the medical staff and coaches are working on a smart plan. Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I don’t see this injury wilting Rose.

Scoop Jackson: Fact. Probably. Especially, like I mentioned in the Hot Button piece, if it is an extension of a pre-existing problem that hasn’t been disclosed. And the other reason is the high probability of re-injury. Derrick plays at such a controlled-reckless abandon he’s going to block out the injury while playing and leave himself open for something freakish (like another player falling on his leg ... seem familiar?) happening again. It probably won’t be until next season for this problem to totally disappear.

Marc Silverman: Fact. Turf toe is a chronic injury and has limited many big time athletes throughout the years. The Bulls must manage this and not chase regular season wins. The only thing that matters is chasing an NBA title. If they do it the right way, it will affect their seed, but not their postseason. A championship is still possible. The Bulls can navigate and win the East without home court advantage. Remember Joakim Noah's foot problems during the 2009-10 season? After sitting for long stretches, Noah had a great postseason, averaging 15 points and 13 rebounds. Rose can win the postseason MVP award if they manage the injury NOW.

2. Fact or Fiction: The 76ers will challenge the Bulls as the top Eastern contender to the Heat.

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Philadelphia’s success is a bit surprising, but they were a very nice team last season, and a well-coached one at that. But I’m just not sure if they have the firepower to be a contender come the playoffs. Going into Wednesday’s game, Lou Williams is leading the team in scoring at 16.2 points per game, and fellow guard Jrue Holiday is second at 15. You need an alpha scorer in the postseason, and really more than one as the Bulls found out against Miami. As one Bull remarked the other day, “Do you think Boston is scared of Philadelphia in the playoffs?”

Scoop Jackson: Fiction. I think the Sixers and the Pacers will be the surprise teams in the East that no one saw coming on Christmas Day when the season began. They’ll be everyone’s “sexy” pick, they’re Vegas gamble. But challenging the Bulls and Heat (and quietly the Hawks) in the East is a whole ‘nother piece. They will win the Atlantic. But that’s like the Broncos winning the AFC West. At the end of it all, we all know who is and will be supreme clientele.

Marc Silverman: Fiction. The 76ers are certainly capable of piling up regular season wins. And Doug Collins always gets the most out of his team. But if the Bulls have a healthy Rose, they will handle Philly in a seven-game series. When it's all said and done, the Pacers and Knicks will be tougher outs in the playoffs.

3. Fact or Fiction: Omer Asik will turn out to be a more effective center than Joakim Noah.

Jon Greenberg: Fiction. He’s just not athletic enough. Asik might be one of the smartest players in the locker room -- Brian Scalabrine told me he’s off the charts -- but he’s not going to run the floor like Noah in this lifetime. Now, we’re talking center effectiveness though, and Asik’s defense has been arguably better than Noah’s this season. Neither of them can catch very well right now. I think Noah, by virtue of his athleticism, is still ahead of Asik, but the vet needs to keep improving because the young Turk is coming on strong.

Scoop Jackson: Fiction. I don’t see this happening. Once the rumors stop floating around that he’s part of a Dwight Howard package or once Howard actually lands on another team not in Chicago, the Joakim that we once knew and that Charles Barkley (up until Monday) publicly claimed for almost two years was his favorite player in the league will return. It might take until after the trade deadline. It might take him losing his starting position to Asik. But come playoff time, Noah will be not only more effective than Asik, but far more important.

Marc Silverman: Fiction. If this is true, the Bulls are in trouble. Noah, when right, is a much better offensive rebounder than Asik. Noah, when right, has much better hands than Asik. Noah's on-ball defense and free-throw shooting also gives him the advantage. The Bulls' depth is what makes them one of the best teams in the NBA. Noah, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, and Asik should be the Bulls' biggest advantage over any team in the NBA. But Asik, when Noah is right, should provide depth and a big-time trade chip in the future. Noah was on the brink of making the Eastern Conference All-Star team last season before his injury. I'm not convinced that player is gone for good. Nothing against Asik, but I still believe Noah is the better player.