Since tearing his ACL last April, Rose's arduous journey back toward the hardwood has been well-documented, and his dedication to doing so on constant display. This same "journey" has also failed to present concrete direction.
Rose has made it abundantly clear that he will sit the entire year if he needs to. Inside of 10 games to go in the NBA's regular season, remaining on the sidelines for the rest of the year is a legitimate possibility.
With every mention of the point guard dunking and slashing again, though, hope spreads that his return to the floor is imminent, and that he'll be ready for the playoffs. Which would be great.
Or would it?
Few of us expected Rose to miss the entire year. Even more of us believed he would've been back by now. Adidas' The Return campaign seemed to suggest that Rose wasn't only hell-bent on playing this season, but likely to.
Now, with the Bulls preparing to embark on their postseason campaign, we're not just unsure if his return is likely, but we're left to wonder if it's even worth it.
Having spent more than 70 games without the former MVP, the Bulls are who they are.
And there's no telling if "who they are" stands to improve with Rose at this point.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports, 82games.com and NBA.com unless otherwise noted.
When choosing between Derrick Rose or no Derrick Rose, you always choose Derrick Rose. Always, always, always.
Not only is Rose a former MVP, but he's one of only five players in NBA history to average at least 21 points and six assists while shooting 46 percent or better from the field through his first four seasons.
To clarify, two of those players (Archibald and Robertson) are Hall of Famers, and the other two (James and Wade) are future Hall of Famers.
Would the Miami Heat want to finish the year without LeBron? Or Wade?
Of course not, and in so many ways, the Bulls shouldn't want to close the regular season or postseason out sans Rose.
When given the option, logic dictates you choose playing with Rose.
Always, always, always.
Derrick Rose makes everyone around him better. Except for opposing defenders. He usually makes them look foolish, and sometimes like they're about to cry.
What we're not entirely sure of, however, is what form of Rose the Bulls will be getting upon his return.
Rose has been meticulous as he navigates his path back to the lineup and as alluded to previously, he's not about to come back if he's not ready. Being "ready" and being game-ready are two different things, though.
Say young Derrick returns just as explosive and laterally-inclined as he was prior to injury. That doesn't negate his need to regain a feel for the pace of the game.
Remember, he hasn't played in almost a year. No matter how healthy or "ready" he is, there's going to be rust. Lots of it.
Rose hasn't taken the floor next to Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer since last April. He hasn't played with Kirk Hinrich since 2010. And he's never played alongside Nate Robinson or Marco Belinelli.
Even if these were the same Bulls of a year ago, it would be difficult for Rose to seamlessly re-enter the fray. Knowing that they're of a different cosmetic makeup this season, it becomes even more tedious a task.
Sure, he could come back, everything could return to the way it was and the Bulls would be basking in postseason glory. Or he could struggle, and disrupt Chicago's current chemistry and dynamic.
If the latter is the case, the Bulls would have wanted him back in February or March, not as they're preparing for times of the win-or-go-home persuasion.
Including Derrick Rose himself, the Bulls have five key players battling injuries: Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, Taj Gibson and Richard Hamilton.
You could really also add Luol Deng to the mix as well. He's averaging over 39 minutes per game, the most in the NBA. And Noah is right there with him, logging more than 37 minutes of burn a night.
Rose or no Rose, Chicago is going to limp into the postseason. The Bulls are one of the most physical teams in the league, and with Deng and Noah playing so much, this was bound to happen. That's just the price Chicago pays for, you know, actually playing defense.
Seeing Rose run out of the tunnel, clad in red and white, would invoke a collective sigh of relief throughout the streets of Chicago. Not just because the world is dying to see Rose play (it is), but because the Bulls just need bodies.
"Whoever can go has to go out there and get the job done," Tom Thibodeau said (via K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune). "That’s the way we’ve been operating since the All-Star break."
Should Rose become one of those players who can "go out there and get the job done," Thibs' job would get a whole lot easier.
A lot more exciting, too.
Derrick Rose has been cleared to play, but that doesn't mean he's ready. If he was, he would actually be playing.
Much of Rose's return depends on his psychological state, but there's no denying aggravating his injury is of concern as well.
We're well aware that Rose has no intention of rushing back. Again, he'd be on the floor if he was. But even if he comes back when he sees fit, do the Bulls really want to run the risk of watching him go down again this season?
Let's face it: The Bulls are unlikely to win a title this season, with or without Rose. It's not that they're not championship worthy, the odds are just stacked against them. There will be 15 other teams vying for that same title, most (or all) of which have spent more time together.
Let's face something else: An entire year off isn't about to hurt Rose's ceiling. Being too cautious isn't possible when nursing an ACL or knee injuries in general. Just ask Amar'e Stoudemire. Or Eric Gordon. Or Adrian Peterson. Or your Grandma (kidding).
Both Rose and the Bulls have taken the most precautionary of measures thus far, and it's brought them here, inside of 10 regular-season games to play.
Seeing him possibly play 10 or more games of basketball doesn't trounce watching him tear up the competition next year, when he's had another six months to recover and a full training camp under his belt.
Not even close.
Let's not pretend the Bulls' offense doesn't make us sad.
Chicago's 103.3 points per 100 possessions ranks 22nd in the league. It's great that Thibodeau has the team at sixth in the league in defensive efficiency (102.8), but it's not enough.
Last season, the Bulls scored 107.4 points per 100 possessions, the fifth-best mark in the league. When Derrick Rose was on the floor that number climbed to 110.7, the equivalent of second, behind the San Antonio Spurs.
Since Rose has been in Chicago, the Bulls are actually averaging 108.8 points per 100 possessions with Rose on the floor. Not only is that more than five points better than they're averaging now, but it would equate to the seventh-best mark in the league since Rose was drafted in 2008.
He gives the Bulls a closer. He gives them the most explosive of offensive options.
Most importantly, he stands to save their offense from the depths of its current anemia.
With the postseason rapidly approaching, what team wouldn't welcome that kind of return?
I've never thought of Derrick Rose as a bad defender.
Last year, opposing point guards posted a PER of just 11 per 48 minutes against. The league average is 15, so yes, that's impressive.
I've never thought of him as a great defender either, and since he's joined the league Chicago's defensive rating typically falls when he's on the floor.
During the 2011-12 campaign, the Bulls were allowing 102.2 points per 100 possessions with Rose, and just 94.8 with him off.
Which is fine when Rose is impacting their offense the way our previous slide discussed.
But what if he struggles on offense and then on defense as well? The Bulls have allowed an average of 4.7 points more per 100 possessions over the last four years when he's on the floor.
That could be a problem in the playoffs, when the pace lessens and defense becomes an even more vital component.
Any setback Rose may have on the defensive end upon his return has the potential to define Chicago's postseason.
In a bad way.
While some stand around the water cooler chit-chatting about how much worse Derrick Rose will be when he finally plays again, others are more optimistic.
Anyone who's seen Rose play or spoken to him since the injury isn't worried about him returning to form. Many project that he'll be even better.
Scary notion, right?
It's also a genuine one.
Per Gary Woelfel of the Journal Times, Rose stands to be even more dangerous than he was before:
A Chicago Bulls official who has closely observed Derrick Rose in practice insists the gifted point guard will be even better than he was before suffering a devastating knee injury. The official said Rose’s perimeter shooting has significantly improved.
You know how I said that when given the opportunity to choose between having Rose and not having Rose, you always choose the former? Well, when a third option in the form of a better Rose presents itself, you always choose that one.
A former MVP improving upon his past performance is nothing short of LeBron James-esque. And a Derrick Rose that can attack the rim and shoot threes is a frightening concept.
One that would only bode well for the Bulls' title chances.
Nothing—aside from earth-shattering welcome he will receive—about Derrick Rose's return to action is guaranteed.
He could come back better than ever, ready to lead Chicago on a championship-caliber push now. But what if he doesn't?
Forget about his physical health, his developing jumper we just discussed and all the hard work he's put into his rehabilitation. What if his mind just isn't right? What if he finds himself back on the court, suddenly favoring that left knee of his?
Injuries are more than just about physical well-being. Returning from an abrasion of severity like this also equates to waging psychological warfare in conjunction with bodily restoration.
Bleacher Report's Art Rondeau provided some unique and incredibly useful insight into what Rose is currently persevering through mentally. It's worth an entire read, but I give you this:
This isn’t about D-Rose helping the Bulls win a game. It’s about helping D-Rose get back on the horse that threw him and about getting him critical information that will allow him to get back on that horse, full time, as quickly as possible.
This is more than about Rose helping the Bulls or about him helping himself. It's about him being himself.
Dunking without hesitation. Recklessly entering the paint. Running the floor like walking or trotting is a crime. That's the Rose we know.
And if he and the Bulls want to ensure it stays that way, sitting for the remainder of the season (playoffs included) isn't going to hurt.