Selfish was not necessarily a word I would have attached to Derrick Rose before now.
Misguided, perhaps. Confused, in all likelihood.
But assessing his condition as day-to-day for some two months now just doesn't fly anymore. And continuing to keep his team up in the air regarding his playing status after it just completed one of the most courageous and improbable first-round playoff victories in memory is unfair -- and yes, that is selfish.
I don't think for a minute Rose is intentionally trying to hurt the Bulls with this drawn-out drama. If he believes the proverbial door is still open to him re-joining the team, then we should believe him. But therein lies one of the countless frustrating and befuddling elements to this debate.
If he may play at any time, then that means he is very close. And if he is that close, then play already. Will he be in the sort of top playoff form that the Bulls would need to topple the defending NBA champion Miami Heat? Probably not. It's why so many observers, including me, felt he should have begun his comeback during the regular season, when the transition presumably would have been easier.
If he is not close, then what exactly does he think is going to magically happen over the next week, week and a half, that will put him over the edge?
If Rose simply does not want to let us all down, I get it, but someone needs to tell him that all he is doing now is creating an unnecessary distraction and taking away from his team's stirring accomplishment.
All of which brings us to another point. Rose said recently that he is in total control over this decision and that no one is telling him what to do, to which I would ask, does that mean he is not being offered any advice at all? And if so, why not?
Will Rose's image eventually rebound if he comes back strong and leads the Bulls to an NBA title? Sure. Does he care about repairing a reputation for people he most likely doesn't care about? Probably not. But when he insisted the other day that it was the first he had heard of criticism toward him, then I have to ask why doesn't he know what is going on around him and his team? And why haven't his advisers discussed the possibility of him coming back for limited minutes?
Here's another thing. I appreciate Rose's honesty and always have. But because I believe he is being honest about the condition of his knee, it baffles me further.
This whole "It's his body and no one else can get inside his head" argument? He said at one time his hamstring bothered him. The only other time I was leaning toward his side is when the Bulls revealed that he did not feel comfortable going off his left leg. Those are concrete physical issues, something that, while I can't feel obviously, I can certainly understand.
But he has not said lately that he is physically unable. We have heard he practices hard. We have not heard about unusual pain or swelling or any other serious physical setbacks. What we have heard is that he is "not ready."
But not ready for what? Not ready to be anything less than the player he wants to be? That's what it sounds like and that's where we also have to question the advice or non-advice he is getting because the Bulls don't need and don't expect him to be in top form. Rose said he is going to be a better player when he does come back and that's great. But they have not needed him to be better, they have needed him to play and to work toward getting better.
Wanting to be better than he ever was sounds like his pride is involved, that he doesn't want people to see him any less than he wants us to see him. If that's not necessarily selfish, then that is the part where he needs better counsel.
Those on the other side of this argument like to lecture those who are not that we are making unfair and unrealistic demands just because Rose is a highly paid superstar (we won't get into the elephant in the room -- that they don't want to risk offending a superstar who is likely to be on this team and in this league for a long time).
OK, yes, I will cop to that. I have high expectations for a superstar who is making a lot of money and whose team needs him. Do I think he is a bum because he has not returned? Certainly not. Do I think he is lying and really agrees with what his brother Reggie said, that it's not worth coming back because this team doesn't have any talent and has no chance to challenge for the NBA title anyway? I certainly hope not.
But questioning Rose's judgment? Nope. That's what we do as sports fans and media. He wants to be careful and "really, really smart." That's his call. We're allowed to wonder what really smart really means.