The saga of Derrick Rose’s recovery and rehab from last season’s ACL tear has become a monotonous topic with no new developments. While the Chicago Bulls would probably like the speculation to end, the star point guard’s calculated approach stands to make them a much better team going forward.
Much of the pressure attributed to Rose’s long path to a full recovery has been a direct result of the Bulls’ second-half slide. Since getting off to a tremendous start to the regular season, Chicago is in the throes of a putrid stretch, dropping 14-of-24 contests since February 1. The team sits in fifth place in the Eastern Conference at 38-31, but just four games separate them from the eighth-place Milwaukee Bucks.
Nothing should be taken away from Chicago’s valiant effort this season with its best player on the shelf. The Bulls rank in the top seven in assists (23.1), rebounds (43.5) and opponent points per game (92.3), but the lack of a true scoring presence in their backcourt has resulted in the league’s second-worst scoring offense with just 92.8 points per contest.
Chicago’s struggles are a direct result of Rose’s absence. In a guard-driven league, no team can be successful without a quality perimeter scorer—and Rose is certainly one of the best in the NBA.
Rushing him back isn’t the answer, though, and coach Tom Thibodeau understands that. It’s the reason Rose has been given the green light to return when he chooses, and why no one has pressured him to jump back into action before he’s completely confident in his knee.
Rose has been asked time and again when he plans to return to action, including last week when he had this to say (as quoted by Nick Friedell of ESPN):
It could be tomorrow and I feel like I could play the next game. Nobody knows but God. I really don't know right now. I don't want to place no percentage on it, but I just know that I'm close and I'm taking every day serious and just becoming a professional.
The last line of that quote should resound with every Bulls fan anxiously awaiting his return.
Rose’s recovery hasn’t been about the media attention, and it has nothing to do with how the Bulls are playing without him. He’s “becoming a professional,” patiently waiting until he knows he can play at his full potential.
In the multi-million-dollar culture of professional sports, professional athletes are often expected to throw their personal well-being to the wayside to do their job. The merits of such a discussion are best left for another time, but that mentality rears its ugly head all too often.
In many cases, players return from injury before they know they are ready, only to suffer setbacks and impede their effectiveness. No one wants to see that happen to Rose, and the maturity and patience he has shown in his recovery proves his head is in the right place.
The future of the Bulls doesn’t lie with a playoff run this season. As difficult a truth as it is, Chicago isn’t in an ideal position to win a championship this year, and it probably wouldn’t happen even with Rose on the court; there’s something to be said for cohesion and team chemistry, and there’s no guarantee Chicago could develop either in a short period of time.
No one expects the Bulls to throw in the towel and give up on their season, but the reality is this: Rose gives his team a chance to win a title. Without him, the odds aren’t in its favor.
The 24-year-old Rose has shown maturity beyond his years in the way he has handled the publicity and pressure of his recovery. That patience and maturity will show when he finally takes the court again, but there’s no reason to risk the future of the organization by rushing him back.