CHICAGO – Impatience with Derrick Rose‘s injury is one thing.
Impatience with Derrick Rose himself, that’s quite another.
It’s also a new and potentially unnerving chapter in this city’s unabashed love affair with the Chicago Bulls’ All-Star point guard and humble native son.
The long wait for Rose to return from surgery in May on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee had ground along uneventfully for most of the past nine months. But if Rose’s comments in a couple of interviews last week cracked open the door that something other than his physical condition might dictate his return – or whether he plays at all in 2012-13 – his brother Reggie kicked that particular door down Thursday.
Expressing frustration that the Bulls haven’t significantly upgraded their roster since before his brother went down in Game 1 of the playoffs last spring, Reggie Rose told ESPNChicago.com that the team’s roster could be a “big factor” in Rose’s decision whether to return this season. “It’s frustrating to see my brother play his heart and soul out for the team and them not put anything around him,” Reggie Rose said. He said he was speaking for himself, not his younger brother, but the two are tight and Reggie is known as the Bulls guard’s “manager.”
Reggie Rose acknowledged the All-Star seasons that forward Luol Deng and center Joakim Noah have had. “But you need more than that,” he said. “You have to put together pieces to your main piece. The players can only do so much. It’s up to the organization to make them better.”
The older brother was frustrated too that the Bulls made no moves at the NBA trade deadline Thursday, though truth be told, had they done anything, they might have shipped out veteran shooting guard Richard Hamilton to reduce their payroll. The Bulls are carrying salaries of about $74 million, which puts them both beyond the salary cap and into luxury-tax territory.
Many Bulls fans have bemoaned management’s apparent priority of finances over basketball – letting center Omer Asik leave as a restricted free agent last summer, for example, or their overhaul of the bench. They still see Rose having to carry too much of the burden, and drawing too much defensive attention, when he does come back.
Still, what made Reggie Rose’s comments so incendiary in Chicago Thursday, lighting up sports-talk radio phone lines and dominating pregame chatter at United Center prior to tipoff of the Bulls’ TNT game against Miami, was the notion that Rose might not play even if cleared physically.
That sense has been floating around for 10 days now, and it works against everything Rose – and his adidas shoe campaign, “The Return” – purport to be about. If he were to hold himself out because he – or worse, his manager, agents or marketers – don’t like the roster or the team’s chances of pursuing an NBA championship this spring, he might be headed down a prima donna path normally reserved in recent times Dwight Howard or Carmelo Anthony.
Very un-Derrick Rose-like, in other words.
Bulls VP John Paxson, about 90 minutes prior to the game, said: “We’ve had great communication with Derrick. Derrick has never expressed anything like that to us. That’s what we know.”
A few minutes later, Paxson and GM Gar Forman met with Rose for about five minutes. The team then released a statement from its injured star. It read:
“I have always felt that the Bulls organization’s goals have been the same as mine and that is to bring another championship to this city.”
Notice any absence of when.
Rose raised eyebrows initially when he told USA Today on Feb. 11 that he needs to be more than fully recovered to play this season. “I’m not coming back until I’m 110%,” he said. “Who knows when that can be? It can be within a couple of weeks. It could be next year.” He echoed those comments two nights later to Bulls reporters in Boston.
So maybe Rose’s return wouldn’t hinge solely on his recuperative powers. Or even on the Bulls’ record, their competitiveness in the Eastern Conference or even Rose’s $16.4 million salary for this season.
Those who have undergone and returned from ACL surgery, such as Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio and New York’s Iman Schumpert most recently, have found that “110 percent” – besides being bad math – is unrealistic. Doctors will tell you that once a player no longer is in danger of re-injury, only time and work in live competition can get a player from 70 or 80 percent to 90, on up to 100.
Like the others, Rose would return with a minutes limit, gradually increasing his workload and almost necessarily being less than the player he was when he got hurt. He might follow good games with poor ones, for no apparent reason. So now folks have to winder: Do his agents or sponsors want Rose back only at Superman level, to fulfill the drama of those sneaker commercials?
Or might this be a way to hold Paxson’s and Forman’s feet to the fire this summer, leveraging some offseason moves in hopes that Rose and his business partners will approve and be ready for training camp?
This sort of suspicion and doubt previously was unheard of with the soft-spoken Bulls star.
For now, he and his bosses are sticking to the original script: Rose will play again when he’s capable, no sooner. Presumably no later.
“His body is going to tell him when he’s ready,” Paxson said. “The fact that he’s on the floor now [practicing 5-on-5], that’s the logical progression to all this. When he’s ready, we’ll know. I’ve been around enough, having played, to know you never tell a player when he should play off of an injury, especially a significant one.”
Coach Tom Thibodeau was asked if Reggie Rose’s comments would be disruptive or a slight to other Bulls players.
“Not really,” Thibodeau said. “Obviously Reggie and Derrick are very close. We share the same concerns about Derrick’s health. So it’s not a big deal. Reggie’s entitled to his own opinion. We all want the same things. We want Derrick’s health and obviously we’re trying to pursue winning a championship.”
The we just seems a little strained from what it once was. The lines of it – Rose and the Bulls or Rose and Rose Inc. – suddenly are hard to discern, for the first time.