And that's why the eventual return of the star point guard is not only vital for the Bulls, but also for the NBA.
The symbolic nature of Rose's progress from left knee surgery couldn't be ignored on the first day of 2013. Particularly since the youngest most valuable player in league history joined his teammates for the charter flight to Orlando, his first trip this season.
"He's doing more of practice, but he still can't take full contact," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "There are several steps he has to go through. This is all part of the plan of bringing him back. But everybody has to be patient."
Rose's travel does little to change the timeline most team observers have speculated all along for his return—late February to early March.
I can confirm that sources close to Rose noted him drinking some sort of liquid, perhaps coffee, on that charter flight. Okay, I don't have sources and I have no idea if Rose drinks coffee, but that would be about as newsworthy.
Not that I don't agree with the symbolism of the trip that Johnson points out. And you have to think that the rest of the NBA has been secretly enjoying a Bulls team without Rose. Yes, the Bulls are 17-13 without him, but with him they become one of the favorites in the East.
Certainly, the Heat are wary of Rose's return. We can talk about the New York Knicks being the biggest threat to Miami in the East, but do you really believe that? After starting 18-5, the Knicks have cooled off and are 3-5 in their last eight games.
Besides, in a playoff atmosphere, which superstar do you trust more: Rose or Carmelo Anthony?
I'll take Rose.
Now, Miami has already proven capable of handling the Bulls, beating them in five games to reach the 2011 NBA Finals. In that series, Lebron James and the Miami defense stifled Rose, and the rest of Chicago's roster couldn't pick up the slack.
It's possible that might happen again.
Still, outside of the Boston Celtics—and let's be honest, Boston isn't scaring anyone this year—no team will give the Heat as many problems as a fully healthy Bulls squad. If you want a compelling series on the Heat's path to the NBA Finals this year, you'll need a healthy Rose to give you one.
So get healthy, Mr. Rose. Enjoy your cup of coffee in Orlando, but make sure you come back full strength in late February or early March.
The Bulls need you. The NBA needs you. Heck, the Heat need you.
We wouldn't want James and company getting too bored before the Finals, after all.
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