Derrick Rose has officially been cleared to start playing actual NBA games for the Chicago Bulls, but it may not be time to put a period on the star point guard's heavily advertised and closely followed return just yet.
According to Melissa Isaacson of ESPN Chicago, "Rose's doctor has cleared the Chicago Bulls' star to play, a team source said. But his long-awaited return to the lineup won't occur until he can confidently dunk off his left foot, Rose has told the team."
Rose's personal reluctance to come back, despite being medically cleared, does seem a little strange at first. But there are really only a couple of reasons to be skeptical about his hesitance.
First, Rose's brother made waves earlier this month when he ripped into the Bulls for failing to make significant moves at the NBA trade deadline. Reggie Rose intimated that his brother's return would serve the Bulls by selling tickets, but based on their inactivity on the personnel front, it didn't appear as though they wanted him back in order to chase a championship.
If you put any stock in that sentiment, maybe Rose is holding off because he's unhappy with the team. That seems highly unlikely, though.
Loud-mouthed brothers aside, some, like David Haugh of The Chicago Tribune have had lots of inquiries about whether or not Rose's corporate partners are the ones influencing his decisions. Far-fetched as they are, Haugh has 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?
To be fair to Rose, neither his brother nor his sponsors are the ones explicitly saying he's not ready to come back. He's the one saying that.
And really: Isn't this guy deserving of the benefit of the doubt?
Rose has a sterling track record of laying everything on the line for his team. He plays recklessly, his effort has never waned and he has shown in the past that he's willing to play in pain. Maybe it's naive or a little too sentimental, but it seems reasonable to trust Rose's judgment in this instance.
Sure, he's probably a bit shaken by the injury. A world-class athlete's first brush with career mortality tends to have that effect. But without knowing exactly how he's feeling, it's pretty irresponsible to start questioning his decision.
Grantland's Zach Lowe summed things up nicely on situations like the one Rose is in right now, tweeting:
Re: specific player injuries: What reporters and fans don't know outweighs what we do know to a giant degree. Speculation is reckless.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) March 8, 2013
And finally, the fact that Rose's teammates aren't up in arms about his decision to fully participate in practice—but not play games—should count for something. Those guys are all probably playing in some degree of pain, yet none of them has called out Rose for taking his time to come back.
If those guys who are closer to the situation than anyone else aren't questioning Rose, that should weigh in his favor.
Ultimately, Rose will come back when he's ready. According to him, that will be when he can dunk off of his surgically repaired leg without reservation.
Call it weird or suspicious if you want, but based on his track record and the support of the only people that matter—his teammates and coaches—there's really no responsible, legitimate way to question the way Rose is handling his return.
I'm buying Rose's reluctance to return, mostly because he knows a heck of a lot more about how his knee feels than I do.