The way Derrick Rose's rehab from ACL surgery has been going, it's looking more likely that he'll rejoin the Bulls' lineup in the playoffs as opposed to this season. Given the state of the team now, that can't happen.
No matter how you look at it, Rose needs to return during the regular season, not the postseason.
Don't get me wrong—torn ACLs are no joke and not to be taken lightly, and I'm not at all saying that Rose should rush back until he's good and ready. Rather, I'm saying that he should step back on the court sooner and just play as best he can, even if it's only for about 15 minutes a game.
The fact is that while Chicago may be the No. 5 team in the Eastern Conference right now, there is no telling where they'll end up by season's end. The Bulls, Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks are all 14.5 games behind the Miami Heat, ranking fifth, sixth and seventh. Between now and the end of the season, that can change.
It doesn't help that the Bulls are also the worst scoring team in the league, ranking dead last with just 92.4 points per game. The defense has been solid, ranking third in points allowed at 91.8 per contest, but the lack of Rose's leadership and scoring (career 21 PPG) has left the team's attack weak and anemic.
But wait just a minute. The Bulls have a fairly easy schedule for the rest of the season. Of the 17 games remaining, 11 are against squads that would be bound for the draft lottery if the season ended today. Thus, why rush rose back when the Bulls' defense is strong enough to contain those squads?
Allow me to take you back to March 13, when the Bulls visited Sleeper Train Arena to take on the Sacramento Kings. Keep in mind that entering the game, Sacramento was 22-43 on the season and completely without an identity. The roster is one full of inexperienced youngsters, and the Bulls should have wiped the floor with them in spite of Rose's absence.
Instead, the Bulls got crushed by 42 points, committing 17 turnovers and shooting just 39 percent from the field for the entire game and making just two out of 21 three-point attempts.
Sure, it may have been a fluke loss, but it just shows that Chicago cannot afford to roll the dice against the rest of the lottery squads this season. The team has gone just 8-12 since Feb. 1, and a Rose return for the playoffs would be too little too late for the Bulls at this point.
When should Derrick Rose return to the Bulls?
Thus, Rose should look to get back on the floor during the regular season because, long story short, the Bulls need him to. The offense is weak and without a leader, and Rose's return even in a limited role would give the team some extra confidence down the stretch, not to mention get Rose warmed up for the playoffs, when every team involved seems to play with an extra bounce in its step.
This wouldn't even be a discussion if the Bulls continued to fare well in Rose's absence, but that's not the case. Despite a decent record, the team has been inconsistent over the past six weeks and needs an extra push right before the playoffs.
That can only happen if Rose returns during the regular season, as his coming back only for the playoffs would be too little too late.