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Derrick Rose's Return to Bulls Should Be Saved for Postseason

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Derrick Rose's Return to Bulls Should Be Saved for Postseason
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Derrick Rose's exuberant return from a brutal ACL injury to the Chicago Bulls' lineup should come this postseason, not before nor after.

After all, the Bulls are likely playoff-bound without their recovering point guard. Plus, the two-month-long playoffs are another season altogether.

Yes, the Bulls are fading fast in the Eastern Conference standings. But no, Tom Thibodeau's squad isn't in any real danger of missing out on the playoffs.

Coming into Thursday, the Bulls are just four games back of the third-seeded Indiana Pacers, and a comfortable 10.5 games ahead of the ninth-seeded Toronto Raptors.

So it comes as no surprise that Thibodeau is preaching patience to Chicago fans this March when it comes to Rose's return (via Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley):

Everyone has to remain patient. There’s a lot of people that have to weigh in on it, and he knows his body. Everybody’s got to sign off on it. Whenever he’s ready, he’s ready. Nothing has changed for us. For our team, I want them to continue to concentrate on improvement and our opponent, and for Derrick, I want him to continue to concentrate on his rehab.

Chicago's 6-10 mark since the start of February is certainly unsettling if you're a Bulls fan. But it must be understood where Chicago stands with 21 games left to play in the regular season. 

While the Bulls are just three losses away from falling from the sixth seed to the eighth seed in the East, they would have to lose out the entire month of March in order to find themselves outside looking in on the playoff picture.

Even in that case, Toronto and Philadelphia would have to put together some impressive winning streaks of their own in order to surpass Chicago in the standings. 

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Tom Thibodeau knows the Bulls won't be judged by what they do during the regular season.

None of the seven non-playoff teams in the East have a winning record, and both Toronto and Philadelphia would need to win 14 straight in order to reach .500. The Bulls are seven games above .500 coming into Thursday. 

So, what's the rush to bring back Rose?

Playoff seeding is meaningful, but irrelevant in the East. In the end, if Chicago or any of the other six challengers is going to reach the NBA Finals, it will have to knock off the Miami Heat without home-court advantage at some point along the way.

Thibodeau is wise to look at the big picture and understand that Rose doesn't make the Bulls a playoff team (they already are without him), but instead a championship team, one capable of challenging the defending champion Heat in a seven-game series. 

When should Derrick Rose return?

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If this was late-April, and Chicago found itself trailing 0-2 in a first-round playoff series, then desperately jamming Rose into the starting lineup would make plenty of sense. But the reality is that the NBA regular season is a marathon as they say, and the postseason is another long distance run altogether. 

Rushing Derrick Rose back to the court may help the Bulls finish a few games ahead of Brooklyn and Atlanta in the standings. But it's no guarantee. 

Rose's services aren't needed to make the playoffs, but they are required to chase an NBA championship in 2013.

Fighting for home-court would be a foolish battle for a team built to win ugly anywhere. Rewind two years back, when Chicago lost to Miami in the 2011 Eastern Conference finals despite possessing home-court advantage.

All that matters is that the Bulls make the playoffs this April, and start an energized, confident Derrick Rose at 100 percent in their first-round playoff series.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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