Derrick Rose isn't doing himself or the Chicago Bulls any favors in riding the bench as he continues his long road back from ACL surgery, and it's time for him to get back on the court in a limited role. By just getting back into games with heavily restricted minutes, the former Memphis Tiger can do wonders for a Chicago offense that has been anemic all season long.
Look at it this way. The Bulls currently are the No. 5 team in the Eastern Conference, sitting 38-31 and basically tied with the 39-32 Atlanta Hawks in the playoff race.
Chicago's defense has been strong all season, ranking third in points allowed at just 92.3 per game, but the same cannot be said for their offense. In terms of points per contest, the Bulls rank 29th with just 92.8.
This, of course, can be attributed to the absence of Rose and his career marks of 21 points and 6.8 assists per game. The man is a natural leader on the floor, and it's clear that Chicago has not been the same without him. Keep in mind, the Bulls were the best team in the NBA each of the past two seasons when Rose was running the point.
That said, there really is no reason that Rose should not return to the lineup on a minutes restriction, maybe no more than 10-15 per game. This way, he can slowly get back into an on-court groove and regain a knack for playing in actual games gradually as opposed to throwing himself to the wolves immediately upon return.
This may seem like a hasty move, but neither Rose nor the Bulls really have a choice at this point. Chicago has gone 10-14 since Feb. 1, and the fact that All-Star center and Defensive Player of the Year candidate Joakim Noah's foot is acting up again makes a strong final push all the more important.
Seeing as how nine of Chicago's 13 remaining games are against lottery teams, there really isn't any reason to further delay Rose's return. At this point, the chance of reinjuring himself seems fairly low, and it just seems that he isn't letting himself back on the court for mental reasons.
If anything, he should view coming back on a strict minutes limit as something of a drill, especially against the lesser teams. This can help him get back into a groove against seemingly easy competition and also get his confidence back, so that he can be fully locked in when the playoffs come around and it's time for the Bulls to face the big dogs.
More importantly, the Bulls need Rose back because their offense as it is now cannot carry them in the postseason. Unless the dynamic point man comes back in some role, no matter how small, the team is going to be destined to go home early this year.