The Chicago Bulls have been able to maintain position without him, posting a 29-19 record and holding the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. As Rose’s season debut gets closer and closer, though, his incorporation into the Bulls' offense is still up in the air.
The Bulls have a number of options. They can bring Rose in off the bench and ease him into the lineup as he gets back to speed. They can also start him right away to help him mesh with the starters quickly.
So, what should the Bulls do?
The fact of the matter is that he needs to get back into rhythm with the rest of the starters, and bringing him off the bench would only make that process slower.
His minutes will still be monitored, but it's better for his progress if he can start and finish games, as he will be doing that down the stretch.
The Bulls can play him for half of each quarter; the first six minutes in the first and third quarters and the last six in the second and fourth quarters.
They can do this until they feel that Rose can start taking on a bigger role.
There's also the team chemistry issue.
This Bulls team is different than in the past few seasons. Carlos Boozer has been playing at a level that he never played at with Rose. The same can be said for Joakim Noah, who is having an All-Star season. Rose has to get accustomed to their new styles of play, and the best way to do that is to have him start alongside them.
However, Rose is the Bulls' best scorer, and he will give the offense a new look with his ability to drive the ball and get others easy shots. Since he gives the offense a new look and different options, he's not the only one that needs to get used to playing with the starters, but they do as well.
This makes it imperative that he starts as soon as he returns. This way both he and the rest of the starters can get used to playing with each other and ultimately rebuild—and hopefully improve on— the chemistry they've had for the last two years.
Noah and Boozer have built great chemistry this year with their interior and high-low passing. While that should continue regardless of Rose being on the court or not, the spacing might have to be different since he is a threat to attack the basket.
How should the Bulls handle Rose's return?
These are all things that the Bulls have to work on executing during games. Practice is one thing, but when they play against a team that has game-planned against them, that's when Rose will pick up on his teammates' new tendencies, allowing his decision-making to improve.
There's no doubt that Rose makes this Bulls team better. They've already done an impressive job by remaining a top team without him. In order for the Bulls to capitalize on his return, they have to start him when he comes back.
It will take time to get Rose up to speed, but there's no reason to elongate that process by making him a reserve.