For most of the year, the Bulls have played very well without their star. They currently are in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference with a 32-24 record, but they are fading fast.
Most of this slide has been due to the elbow injury of point guard Kirk Hinrich. The veteran has been a steady presence for the Bulls this year, but he has only played in one game in February: a 96-87 win over the New Orleans Hornets.
His lingering issues could hurt the team's chances to stay competitive.
However, another issue that stands out in the recent poor play is the schedule. Chicago has played nine games this month against squads currently in playoff position. The team was only able to win two of those, with most not being even close.
There is simply not enough offense on the current squad to compete with the top teams in the league.
Fortunately, reinforcements could be on the way in the form of a former MVP. Last week, Jon Greenberg of ESPN reported that Rose took part in five-on-five drills.
So the Rose of old is ready to step on the court and dominate, right? Not exactly.
The All-Star has been working hard for a comeback, but he has been smart about taking his time. This could mean a few more weeks before he is fully ready to return. He was not able to dunk a week ago, and you do not go directly from dunking your first ball in a year to playing 30 minutes in the NBA.
Even when he is healthy, it is unlikely that he will have his full explosiveness that he had before the injury. The 31 percent career three-point shooter needs to be able to get to the basket in order to succeed, and he will likely struggle to do that right away.
If Derrick Rose returns, who will win the Eastern Conference?
Finally, conditioning could be an issue when he eventually plays in games. Even if you work out every day, there is nothing quite like playing at game speed against real competition.
All of these factors will put more pressure on the rest of the roster to continue to carry the load for a little longer. In recent games, the supporting cast has not shown that this can be done.
A Derrick Rose return will lift up the spirits of not only the team but the entire city of Chicago. However, everyone must temper expectations at least until next season.