The Chicago Bulls sit in third place in the Eastern Conference, just two games behind the Miami Heat for the overall conference lead, but former All Star and MVP point guard Derrick Rose has yet to make his season debut.
After season-ending ACL surgery in 2012, Rose is now practicing at full contact with his Bulls teammates (h/t ESPN), and he is on the right track back to full health and a return to the elite level he was playing at before the injury.
As exciting as the news is for Chicago and the team’s fans, the organization must temper its expectations for Rose this season. The franchise’s main focus should be the long-term health of its young star, not this season’s playoff run.
If Rose is back by the time the postseason rolls around, that will be great news for the team. But Chicago knows it can’t take even the slightest risk with the star point guard’s health, and the franchise will play it safe whenever possible.
Chicago’s executive vice president, John Paxson, talked to ESPN 1000 Chicago about how Rose is progressing. He said that the organization will be taking the whole process slowly and not rushing any aspect of the star point guard’s return:
We don't have the defined plan yet because Derrick is still progressing. The way he feels and what his body tells him is going to dictate how we do things. But I can tell you one thing -- and this is for certain -- he's going to have to have a high volume of practices and contact, and where he's comfortable on the floor doing things that he used to do naturally. And that takes some time and he's just starting that process now.
We can't sit here today and say he's going to be back in three weeks or after the All-Star break. Those things are a hope, but his body is going to tell us and then when we get to that point, that's when we're going to have to sit down and determine, after we talk to our doctors and everything, then determine our game plan of minutes and how best to bring him back. We don't want to bring him back and then have a setback because he wasn't totally ready. We want this to be a progression where he comes back, he starts to play and every week he gets better and feels better.
The Bulls are playing very well. And despite injuries to key stars like Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich on top of Rose’s issue (h/t New York Daily News), Chicago is a team built on strong defense and timely scoring.
As these veterans return to the court and continue to build chemistry with each other, the team will return to the elite form it held when Rose was 100 percent healthy.
While Rose’s return to the lineup may disrupt the current rhythm of the Bulls, there is no question that the team will be infinitely better with the former MVP back in the lineup.
The process of integrating him into the game and getting the young star his confidence back will be important to Rose's recovery, and that will mean taking it slow when it comes to getting on the court. He will likely come off the bench for a few games until he gets himself back in game shape and feels comfortable making the moves he'll need to be effective once again.
The young star has the talent to return to MVP status. And with the proper time to finish recovering, he likely will.
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