See You Soon?
Seeing benefit, Rose will return
For all the speculation about his willingness to play and the motives of certain members of his inner circle, I believe Derrick Rose will play basketball again this season. He won't play 40 minutes and probably won't have his usual explosiveness or killer instinct. But it will be a treat to watch him play after months of piecemeal updates and speculation.
Despite his cautious words, and those of his brother Reggie, the circumstantial evidence for his return comes from the amount of work he's putting into rehab and the frequent pregame appearances he's making before hundreds of fans who get to arenas early to watch him work out.
I think Rose's words were meant to reassure everyone he wasn't going to put himself at risk with a quick return. The drumbeat was growing loud, and it was past time for Rose to speak for himself. With no word on any setback throughout the rehab process, it seems like Rose should be ready to come back this month, once he gets some more 5-on-5 practice work.
Despite all the chatter and nervousness, March was always the cautiously optimistic return date. Nothing has changed.
While some people believe it's foolish to play when the Miami Heat are so obviously superior to the Bulls -- forgetting the chance that Miami suffers an injury at some point -- I think Rose would see a benefit in playing now. His doctor agrees.
"There's actually a lot of therapeutic benefit to starting with early minutes when it's safe," Dr. Brian Cole, the Bulls' doctor who performed Rose's surgery, said when he spoke to reporters after the surgery. "You have to play to play. All these muscle patterns have to kick in. You can do that off the court informally. But there's a lot of benefit to playing."
If Rose can play, I think he owes it to himself, not everyone else, to do so.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
Not enough reasons to rush back
If you had asked me two weeks ago whether or not Derrick Rose was going to play this season, I would have had no doubts that he would. He was starting to do more and more in practice and his Chicago Bulls teammates were impressed by what they were seeing. Everything seemed to be on track ... but then it wasn't. Whether it was by design or not, Rose was the one who put doubt in everyone's mind by first telling USA Today that he was "far away" from playing, and then telling Chicago reporters that he "wouldn't mind" sitting out the whole season if his leg still wasn't feeling right.
I believe the pressure of coming back and being the "old" Derrick Rose is starting to wear on the 24-year-old superstar. He knows the Bulls are struggling without him, but he doesn't want to come back unless he has the same kind of explosiveness and ability to attack the rim. Fans can look at all the tapes of Rose running and dunking that they want, but the physical aspect isn't what is holding Rose back at the moment. It's the mental part of being a superstar.
I think that was, in part, what Reggie Rose was trying to impart with his comments to ESPNChicago.com last week. Even the most optimistic of Bulls fans would admit that even if Rose returned this season as the exact same player he used to be, the Bulls would struggle to get past the Miami Heat and likely the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, and maybe a few hard-nosed teams, like the Indiana Pacers, in the East. There was truth in some of Reggie's comments in that regard. The Bulls weren't built to win a title this season -- they were re-built this summer with players on short, cheap contracts whom they could dispose of at the end of the year. The Bulls' future was always on the mind of the front office because it knew that the present didn't look as bright due to Rose's injury and the cap situation.
The Bulls' success this season surprised the organization and only made the situation tougher for Rose's inner circle. No matter how hard the Bulls have tried to deflect it, the pressure has gotten incrementally bigger on Rose to come back. I believe Rose will ultimately be the one to make the decision on his status, but if you think he's going to stop listening to his brother, Reggie, and his agents, B.J. Armstrong and Arn Tellem, you're crazy. The message from them has been unmistakable: This team isn't good enough to win a championship right now so don't kill yourself to come back because this isn't the optimal situation for success.
Between those words and the pressure Rose is already putting on himself to be the same player he used to be, the odds are higher that he sits out the year and comes back in October when everyone is on the same page.
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPN Chicago.