CHICAGO – Derrick Rose wants to do what’s best for Derrick Rose. He has been clear about that from the start of his long, painstaking rehab from knee surgery last spring, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The Chicago Bulls are going to do what’s best for Derrick Rose. That has been their default position whenever the topic has come up, which only has been every day, repeatedly, for the past 10 months.
Fans of the team should want all parties involved to do what’s best for Derrick Rose. They have been bystanders, cheerleaders and skeptics through this process, investing both money and emotions into the lengthy wait, constantly weighing the short-term against the long-term and mostly coming up stumped.
So let’s make it easy for them here and now:
The Bulls should shut down Derrick Rose till October.
Enough already. The networks and affiliates have more footage of Rose working out and shooting jump shots before Bulls games, locked in eternal preparation, than they ever will be able to use. Fans who arrive early see him out on the United Center court looking so much like the guy they remember, save for the practice gear, and then – poof! – he’s gone. They and everyone else spend much of each evening there bandying about his fate, and then some of them call talk shows or post comments on Web sites and vent as if Rose has changed his name to LeBron or something.
Where Rose’s brother Reggie once laid blame on Bulls general manager Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson for somehow contributing to this limbo with their roster management, the player himself recently thrust the timeline of his return into the hands of his deity, whose “honey-do” list already was a little long.
Sorry, but this decision – should he or shouldn’t he? – has to stay between Rose, his doctors, his coaches and the team, erring always on the side of caution.
They’re there now. Shut him down.
The Bulls have only 14 games left on their regular-season schedule. One comes tonight in Minnesota, the tail end of a back-to-back. The next comes Wednesday against the barreling locomotive that is the Miami Heat. After that, it’s down to a dozen, a small window – more of a transom, actually – for Rose to work his way into NBA game shape and pace, for his teammates to adapt, for head coach Tom Thibodeau to fight his orneriest instincts and manage Rose’s minutes for the player’s benefit rather than the team’s.
Three weeks from next weekend, the playoffs begin. Chicago is mired in that pack of five East wannabes-to-also-rans (some would say seven) who are neither good enough to seriously challenge Miami nor, with No. 9 Philadelphia sputtering at 16 games under .500, bad enough to fall out of the seedings. The Bulls look like a one-and-done team without Rose; with him, still rusty and maybe on a slightly longer minutes leash, they could push it to the second round.
That is not worth it. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and the Bulls’ other owners don’t need and shouldn’t want two or three extra home gates that badly. Fans in Chicago, who have deferred their gratification this long, surely can wait a little longer – they’re good in this town at the wait-till-next-year mantra. And Rose, when he does come back, needs to be on the floor as a recovering knee-surgery patient in the final stage of his rehab, not as a savior or a leading scorer or as the hero of a slick campaign of sneaker commercials.
Look, it was one thing when doctors’ pegged Rose’s return, on a purely physical timeline, at late February or early March. That left 20 or more games to adjust, assimilate, navigate some lows along with some highs.
It was different, too, when the Bulls were a team in waiting, all pieces in place, ready for Rose’s return to chase the same prize they’d have been eyeing had he never gotten hurt at all. But that team doesn’t exist anymore. Several of his teammates are broken down physically, most recently center Joakim Noah missing this weekend with a flare-up of some persistent plantar fasciitis. Kirk Hinrich and Richard Hamilton have been eternally banged-up. Rose himself, like others who undergo ACL procedures, always figured to need a full year or more to regain all or most of his powers.
Meanwhile, some of those not hurting physically beyond the NBA norm for March have been wrung out by the heavier load they’ve lugged in Rose’s absence. And frankly, by the moving goal posts of his return. Luol Deng wouldn’t be making any All-Star teams off his low-ebb performances this month.
Bottom line: The team he would come back to isn’t worthy of what Rose would be expected, or would try himself, to do if he returned this late. Does anyone want to see the Heat’s Dobermans set loose on Rose in his uncertain state for anywhere from four to seven games? Even a feisty George Hill, a rejuvenated Deron Williams or a tenacious Avery Bradley might be too much in a playoff situation and put Rose in harm’s way.
Compared to that, the opportunity to work his way back through eight meaningless games in October when his teammates are fresh and everyone is coming off a layoff of his own (three months if not 15) holds great appeal and all the common sense.
Shut Derrick Rose down. Now.