The good news for Chicago Bulls fans is that Derrick Rose has been cleared to play. The bad news is that Rose has decided to put off his highly-anticipated return to the court for just a while longer.
According to a story from ESPNChicago.com, the Bulls' star point guard has been cleared to play by his doctor. The only person holding him out of the lineup now is Rose himself.
Rose told ESPN that he doesn't feel that he's 100 percent ready to return mentally and wants to be able to dunk off of his left foot with full confidence before making his return to the court. This may seem like Rose might be making excuses, but he's not.
It may seem like a small part of his game, but it's absolutely the right decision for him to avoid coming back before he's completely prepared to play on his surgically repaired knee.
One of the most difficult things about bouncing back from an injury like an ACL tear is the mental aspect. Especially for a player like Rose who has always depended on his athleticism and quickness in and out of cuts, he has to be fully confident that he can move the way he did before the injury.
Old school basketball fans may not like Rose's lack of urgency. Images of Willis Reed's limping around in the NBA Finals or Michael Jordan's flu game inform our version of "tough" when it comes to NBA stars. However, Reed's career was ultimately cut short and Rose is dealing with much more than a simple case of the flu.
Ultimately, the Bulls are doing just fine without Rose. At 35-27 on the season, the Bulls are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference and a near-lock to wind up in the playoffs.
While most athletes would be too proud to admit that they aren't where they need to be mentally to return from a devastating injury like an ACL tear, it's refreshing to see an athlete like Rose admit that he's just not ready.
Some may argue that he's putting himself before the team, but he's showing that he's a true leader by not coming back until he knows that he can contribute at the level that he's comfortable with.
With Rose coming closer and closer to returning, the Bulls will be that much better because they've shown that they can win without him. Nate Robinson has been playing well in the role of starting point guard and the Bulls remain one of the best defensive teams in the league with or without Rose.
As much as Bulls fans would love to see Rose make his return as soon as possible, the regular season is all about getting to the playoffs. The Bulls current roster can do that without Rose as long as they need to.
His 21 points per game will be a huge boost for an offense that has been known to sputter at times, but the playoffs are still more than a month away. For now, it's best that Rose takes his time and returns when he knows that he can take over the mantle as the team's unquestioned leader and best player.