With its sound bites and made-for-TV drama, the tone of Derrick Rose's return has at least one member of the Chicago media questioning who's really in control of the former MVP's comeback.
Rose told Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, "I'm not coming back until I'm 110%. Who knows when that can be? It can be within a couple of weeks. It could be next year. It could be any day. It could be any time. It's just that I'm not coming back until I'm ready. Right now, probably in the high 80s. Far away. Far away."
From that relatively benign and conservative self-assessment, David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune has done some pretty interesting extrapolating. He's of the opinion that perhaps Rose's management team or his shoe company is orchestrating his well-documented return.
And he thinks that the aforementioned influences might be controlling Rose in a way that doesn't align with the Bulls' interests.
Yes, they're far-fetched and often logically inconsistent, but Haugh is asking questions.
Questions about whether the humble hometown hero from Englewood has gotten lost somewhere amid a corporate marketing campaign packaging him. Questions about how much control the Bulls really have over a player they have invested $95 million in—or $165 million less than Adidas invested. Questions about who ultimately will decide when or if Rose plays this season: Team Rose or his NBA team?
Before dismissing these inquiries (and their creative use of punctuation and grammar), let's give Haugh the benefit of the doubt.
Sure, Rose's return has been overdramatized and branded by Adidas. As Haugh points out, the shoe company has shrewdly managed to turn a devastating injury into an inspiring six-commercial series that feels more like a mini-movie.
It's also somewhat curious that Rose has made some seemingly calculated announcements to big media outlets while keeping his mouth shut around Chicago's local media.
But those things don't necessarily point to some sort of clandestine, behind-the-scenes puppetry. Rose has every right to return when he's totally confident in his health, and as a matter of fact, the Bulls shouldn't want him to do anything else.
The fact that Rose is taking in so much more money from endorsers than he is from his team is a reality that applies to a number of NBA players, but it certainly doesn't mean that he's allowing himself to be controlled by those groups to the detriment of his team.
If we suspected every NBA player with endorsements of listening a little too closely to his sponsors, what superstar would be beyond suspicion? And even if Rose were somehow being influenced, their control over his press exposure and their shaping of his return campaign don't also indicate that they're telling him when to play.
Advertising and media strategies are probably things Rose should be receptive to, but there's no reason for him to listen to suits on matters of basketball and his own physical health.
The fact is Rose suffered a serious injury that has an unusual chance of recurring because of his uniquely reckless style of play. With 10 months as an aggressive time frame for recovery, it's not remotely surprising that he's not ready to come back yet.
And considering his dual reputation as a fierce competitor and devoted hometown kid, any assertion that he's either being duped or controlled by outside forces seems even more far-fetched.
This guy wants to play. He just isn't going to do so until he's ready.
That stance shouldn't warrant the sort of speculative, connect-the-dots analysis that we're seeing in the wake of his most recent comments.
As is the case with most conspiracy theories, this is an easy "sell."