Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose has been medically cleared to play for nearly a month after suffering an ACL injury last year, but he still hasn't suited up. With the regular season nearing its conclusion, it would be best for Rose to shut himself down and prepare for next year.
The Bulls are currently the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and definitely pose a threat to some of the elite teams in the East regardless of whether or not Rose returns. If the playoffs started today, Chicago would face the Indiana Pacers in the first round. With Rose in the fold, it can be argued that the teams would be on equal footing.
At the same time, there is no telling whether or not Rose would be able to play at a high level from jump street. The only real hurdles that Rose has left to clear before he can play are mental ones. He may be experiencing some discomfort after physical activity, but that is something he needs to get past before he can contribute.
If Rose is at all unsure about his ability to help the team this season, then the Bulls would be best served shutting him down. The worst-case scenario is Rose coming back, playing tentatively and ultimately re-injuring himself because he can't play the game he is accustomed to. If Rose returns and is unsure of himself, there are a lot of risks involved for himself and the team.
Chicago may be able to advance to the second round of the playoffs if Rose comes back, but the odds of the Bulls defeating a team like the Miami Heat or even the New York Knicks in a seven-game series are quite slim. It's never a good idea to completely give up on a season, but it seems like the Heat are poised to roll through the Eastern Conference no matter who stands in their way.
That may very well be the case next year as well, but the Bulls will be a different team with Rose playing a big role from the very start of the season. Even though adding an MVP-caliber player like Rose to the mix should never be considered a negative thing, Chicago has gotten into a rhythm over the course of the season without him, so his return could potentially disrupt that.
According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said that when Rose is "ready to go," he's going to play.
Medically speaking, Rose has been ready to go for a few weeks, but he obviously isn't in the right state of mind. Thibodeau certainly wants his biggest weapon in the lineup. However, the Bulls may have to make an organizational decision.
When Chicago has its full allotment of stars, it is most definitely in the title-contender conversation. The Bulls were among the league's best teams two years ago, and they would have made a run last year if not for Rose's injury in the playoffs. In the interest of preserving the team's long-term viability, Rose should take a seat for the remainder of the season.
With so many people talking about Rose's health and his reluctance to return, there is a lot of pressure on him right now to speed things up. That has to be weighing on him to some degree, and it could cause him to make a rash decision. If Thibodeau and the front office take the decision out of Rose's hands, though, it will be better for everyone.
Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer make up a solid core that will ensure that the Bulls are competitive in the playoffs this season. The focus needs to be on the future more than anything, however, and the best thing for Chicago's future is allowing Rose to take the next several months to heal properly both physically and mentally.
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