It's getting to the point now where everyone has an opinion about it and every opinion has a quote to lean on.
So when is Rose returning? Is it too soon, too late or just right?
We're going to pick through all the various strains for rumor and/or speculation, determine their origins and hopefully get a measure of sanity out of all this turmoil. Sometimes there's a rumor that's really no more than fan speculation run amok.
For your viewing pleasure, we'll also feature the entire #Return series, in order.
One rumor is that "he's not coming back this season at all." This has little merit or credibility, and there are multiple reasons why it his highly doubtful this occurs.
The basis of this rumor seems to be a combination of some Bulls fans wanting it to be the case and the media overhyping a quote from Derrick Rose.
In an interview with Rachel Nichols of ESPN, Rose said, in regard to his return, "Who knows when that time is? If it's all year I might wait the whole year, so what? If I come back at the All-Star (break), so what?"
The "if it's all year" part has been taken out of context to make it seem that it was actually being presented as a possibility, rather than just a rhetorical tool. Those who don't want him to return were particularly eager to jump on this.
So why would any self-respecting Bulls fan not want Rose to come back?
A segment, albeit a minority segment, of Bulls fans has pushed for the "tank" mentality. Essentially, they argue that the Bulls aren't going to win the title anyway, so why "rush" Rose back. Let him sit out the whole year and then come back next year. They argue that there's less risk if the Bulls wait the entire season.
In the meantime, the Bulls just help their draft position by being a worse team without him.
Apparently, the Bulls aren't cooperating with that strategy, as they currently lead the Central Division and hold the fourth-best record in the East, even without Rose, and lately Richard Hamilton or Kirk Hinrich either.
Rose's return could very much put the Bulls in title contention, and there's every reason in the world he should return this year, particularly when there's not a shred of evidence to suggest that waiting four more months after he's 100 percent makes it any safer for him to return then than now.
Another rumor which seems to have no basis in fact is that the Bulls are pushing Rose to come back too soon.
There doesn't seem to be a single actual news report to substantiate this, but there is enough conversation about this that it's deemed worthy of mentioning, if for no other reason than to clear up that this is not true. It's absolutely, emphatically untrue in fact.
It is so untrue that it's the exact and polar opposite of true. If anything, there's the possibility of too much caution.
Ultimately the final decision is going to be made by the owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, who said:
I'm not going to let him back until the doctors tell me that it's absolutely safe for him to come back. I made that mistake with Michael Jordan years ago where I think we let him come back too soon. It worked out OK, but it might not have. This time I'm not going to make that mistake. Until the doctors say he's 100 percent and they put their reputations on the line, he's not coming back.
There is absolutely no equivocation to that statement. Reinsdorf is "not going to let him back." That means if Rose wants to come back, he doesn't get to make the decision. That means if Tom Thibodeau asks, he doesn't get to make the decision.
And as far as whether he's pressuring the doctors to sign off early, he's demanding that they "put their reputations on the line" before he even accepts their word.
You would think that things went sour with Michael Jordan, but they didn't. That leads one to think that if anything (and if it's possible), they are erring too far on the side of caution.
It has been stated numerous times on ESPN and NBA TV that the "soonest Rose will come back is February or March." Or, as reported here by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Rose is out until "likely March."
What we need to understand here is that this is not based on actual information released from the club beyond the "eight to 12 month" timeline that was first established by Rose's doctors after the surgery, but it's a kind of "middle road" mentality.
The middle of March would be 10 months after his surgery, which is the exact middle date that was given by the doctors, and that's the only reason that it has become the consensus timeline for a Rose return.
That's not to say there isn't a kind of logic to that, but we have to be careful as to not confuse that with the full timeline given by the doctors. That doesn't mean that if he comes back earlier he is coming back too early or is being "rushed back".
It's important to recognize while these are reasonable projections as to when he might come back, they are not in any way intended to be substitutes for doctors' opinions of when he should come back.
According to the doctors, eight months is a very valid part of the timeline, which would mean that he could be back as soon as January. Or he might come back in February or March. Or he might not come back at all this season.
His health will be the sole determining factor, and they haven't disclosed that information to the media.
Still more, there are some Bulls fans who aren't worried so much about the Bulls "pushing" Rose to come back early, as they are worried that they will "let" Rose come back early.
Rose is one of the most fiery competitive players in the NBA today—if not the most. He's even drawn the respect of such Hall of Fame competitors as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
Bryant said that Chris Paul and Rose were the only ones that matched his fire. Micheal Jordan compared Rose's MVP year with his own. It's that kind of competitive fire that led the Bulls to drat Rose with the top overall pick.
It's also what has some worried that Rose will push too hard and come back too soon.
Fans need not worry. Rose wants to come back, and is dedicated to his rehab, but he's not going to force the issue if he's not ready to come back, even if it means missing the entire season.
In October, NBA.com's Steve Aschburner quoted Rose (via NBA TV) on his discussions with his doctors on his return date, and whether he might miss the season:
We haven't talked about it. That's crazy. Hopefully I don't have to miss the whole year. But if so, I know I'll always have another year.
That doesn't leave any doubt. If he has to miss the whole year, he's willing to miss a whole year. Rose has enough people around him to keep him grounded. He's not going to rush things back himself and has the right mindset—push hard to come back as soon as possible, but be willing to accept that not it might be as soon as you want it to be.
A recent article by Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times nearly lit the Internet on fire when he let it be known that Rose was "just weeks away from practicing."
Weeks away quickly became two weeks away...and things were out of control.
The genesis of the rumor was an unnamed source who was relaying the feelings of a couple of players. Here's the pertinent part of Cowley's article:
"That’s the belief that a couple of [the Bulls’] players are under,’’ the source said.
Rose has been expected to be able to play in games by February, but that has been inferred more than actually stated. Even if the Bulls receive the ultimate Christmas present of getting him back on the practice court just before Dec. 25, it doesn’t mean he’s necessarily ahead of that February schedule — or behind it.
In response, the Bulls tried to quash the rumors when Tom Thibodeau stated Rose was "still a long ways from practicing."
So really, there was no actual news here. Or was there?
In the aftermath to make sure that everyone wasn't overreacting and in Cowley's obvious attempt to make sure that he wasn't overstating things, the core of the story might have been lost.
At least two of the players, who are around Rose (more than, say, you or me), feel like he's getting close. Furthermore, even in the "rebuttal," Thibodeau didn't deny the possibility that Rose could be practicing before the New Year.
Are we talking about the difference between the week before and the week after Christmas? Is that the massive difference between "weeks" and "a while?"
So while this one got quickly quelled, there's actually a grain of truth to it, depending on what your definition of "weeks" is. It wouldn't be a shock if he were practicing before the end of 2012.
Now there are reports that Rose is participating in walk-throughs, as reported by both Aggrey Sam of Comcast Sports Net and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
As I previously reported and Thibs just confirmed, Derrick is participating in "early group" (walking through plays) pre-practice sessions.— Aggrey Sam (@CSNBullsInsider) December 16, 2012
In light of Ricky Rubio return, Thibodeau said DRose has participated in some walkthrough stuff but is "a ways" away from practicing. #Bulls— K.C Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 16, 2012
Of course this is also modified by Tom Thibodeau's assertion that he is "a ways away" from practicing. Then again, this is the same coach who had Richard Hamilton "day to day" for about a month last year, so as long as he doesn't say "day to day," Rose's return might be more imminent than you think.
Consider what we know he's doing: He's shooting and jumping, he's sprinting and cutting, and now he's doing walk-throughs. It seems he's been doing most, if not all of that, for anywhere from weeks to a couple of months.
He's doing pretty much everything he needs to do to play. What else is there? What's the next step?
When you look at the specifics, there's nothing that points to "missing a season" or "rushing," but there seems to be a lot to point to "not too far off."
It's only logical that the next step is full practices. And how far off can that next step be? How long will he do "just" walk-throughs before it becomes light contact, and then full-contact practices? It seems like "ways to go" might not be that different form "weeks away."
January 13 will be the eight-month mark from Rose's surgery. If he's not already engaged in full practices by then, it's a safe bet he'll start then.
As for an actual return date, everything is pure speculation, but based on everything that we actually know, sooner seems more likely than later—but sooner isn't the same as "too soon." A late January, early February return seems to be a reasonable guess.