The talk of Derrick Rose returning is heating up as the day draws ever closer. As the day approaches, some are beginning to worry that Rose will come back "too soon." This is the biggest non-issue the Chicago Bulls have faced this season.
This video of Derrick Rose dunking is a perfect example. What it is, is a single dunk, at some point during a three-hour practice session.
It's kind of amazing how much reaction that video has generated, both for and against Rose returning soon. Some look at the fact that he's dunking and say it means he's about to return.
Others argue that he didn't dribble, or that the dunk wasn't off-stride (which is what it needs to be at for Rose to return).
Here's a little secret for you though. Sometimes Internet and/or sports arguments are stupid. I tried to consider a more polite word to use than "stupid" here, but nicety would just replace accuracy. The whole debate is stupid—really, superbly, incredibly, unequivocally, indubitably, unambiguously stupid.
Never has there been more "debate" on a subject in which there has been so much agreement. Derrick Rose should not come back until he is fully and completely ready. Literally, every single principle involved in the decision completely agrees on this. So where's the argument?
Let's start at the top and work our way down.
Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Bulls reiterated his position last month on when Rose should return. He told ESPN Chicago,
There's no date. The doctors say that he's doing everything that he's supposed to be doing and there's no specific date. He's not going to come back until the doctors say unequivocally that he has no greater chance of getting hurt than any other player. If there's any risk, he's not coming back.
How about the front office? General Manager, Gar Forman, told Joe Crowley of the Chicago Sun-Times at the beginning of January,
There is no end game in sight. The next step was to get him on the floor where he's participating in practice and contact activities. So we're not skipping steps. Once we feel comfortable with that and our doctors feel comfortable, then we'll go to the next step. It's not about us being evasive with our answers.
Everything has been planned out in detail. That's why we're taking this step-by-step and not skipping steps. There's a process in place and we've never wanted to jump ahead.
Rose had the surgery last May, and the MVP point guard started participating in light practice a few weeks ago. He made his first road trip with the team last week, and full-contact practice seems to be just on the horizon.
But this is all about erring on the side of caution with the face of the franchise for years to come. It's not about what's best for the Bulls today, as much as what's best for them and Rose for years to come. If that means slip-ups like their last home game in which they lost to Charlotte, so be it.
See that, "erring on the side of caution" part? Gar Forman, check.
But what about the other half of the front office, John Paxson, the Vice President of Basketball Operations? Could there be a division at the top? Just five days after Forman's comments, Paxson told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune,
Expectations are going to come from every angle. We're going to remain patient. Until we get him into real practice situations for an extended period of time and see how his body responds, we're not even going to come up with a plan for him to play.
Our priority is to make sure he's healthy and he's healthy for the long term. Everything will be dictated by that.
So Reinsdorf, Forman and Paxson are all on the same page. Perhaps the pressure is coming form Bulls' head coach, Tom Thibodeau. In an interview with Sports Radio Interviews, Thibodeau told Chris Fedor,
I think in any situation like this you hope for the best but you plan for the worst. That’s a possibility that he could miss the entire season and if that’s the case, then that’s fine. We just want him to be healthy and ready to go. Whenever that is, we will deal with that. For our team, nothing is going to change.
"We just want him to be healthy." Thibodeau, check.
So maybe the issue is the hyper-competitive Rose pushing himself too hard to come back too early. Rose told USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt,
I don't have a set date. I'm not coming back until I'm 110 percent. 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.
Well now we're really starting to run out of candidates, but there are a couple of others who could be influencing the decision of when to return. How about his teammates? Are they trying coax him to come back early so they can win?
Joakim Noah told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, in typical Noah form, “I think he’ll be back when he’s ready, whenever that is.’’
"When he's ready." Teammates, check.
Then of course there are some who suggest Adidas is pulling the strings, and while Adidas has not come out and said anything either way about when Rose should return, there's some basic logic which can be applied.
It is perhaps even more in Adidas' long-term interests that Rose not return until he's 100 percent than it is in the Bulls' interest. While Chicago has a "mere" four-year, $100 million interest in Rose's future, Adidas has invested $183 million over 13 years.
The immediate returns aren't worth that kind of investment, especially when you consider the #thereturn marketing campaign has been purely phenomenal. According to adweek.com, Adidas has been absolutely cashing in on the injury.
For instance, Return of D Rose has been a national trending topic on Twitter three times, according to Adidas. Twitter followers for @adidasbasketball have soared by 100 percent, Facebook chatter about the brand has jumped 200 percent, and the effort's YouTube videos have been viewed 7 million times.
On the business side of the campaign, online searches for the basketball player's new sneaker—the D Rose 3—skyrocketed by 400 percent, according to Adidas, which estimates 140 million consumers have seen the overall initiative.
The article also cites, Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing analyst and Executive Creative Director at Baker Street Advertising,
I cannot think of another athlete that's been out for an extended period of time and used by the brand while he or she’s not playing. It’s a tough thing to do. The brand managers couldn’t ignore the fact that he’s not playing. He’s their guy. They’ve wanted to make sure he stays top of mind so they can recoup their investment while he’s not playing.
In fact, Adidas has conceivably profited more off the injury than if Rose were actually playing. Adidas' "#thereturn" series is arguably the most successful ad campaign featuring an NBA player this year.
At the very least, Adidas has mitigated its losses while he's out and the difference of a few weeks, or even a season, isn't going to offset the massive $185 million they have invested in him. Logically, it makes sense for them to want him back only when he's ready.
Is the controversy about Rose returning early valid or just overblown hype?
Neither should the absence of a statement be read as a statement of anything. Part of Rose's appeal is his image, and the image of Rose being turned into a prima dona athlete beholden more to his shoe company than his team would destroy his image, and therefore, hurt Adidas.
The entire, "when should Rose return " is not a real controversy for the Bulls, or anyone associated with the decision. He should return when he's ready, and not a day sooner. Everyone agrees.
The only ones who are making this a controversy are a few well-meaning fans who have a guttural fear that the moment Rose steps on the court he'll collapse on the floor, cringing in pain, with his freshly repaired knee torn again. Fear not. No one wants that to happen and everyone is watching out to make sure it doesn't.