The 2012-13 Chicago Bulls season has been one of hope, but one that eventually will be written off as a wasted season. Star point guard Derrick Rose's comeback has been teased for months, but a new report from NBC Sports has reported that Rose is likely out for the entirety of the season and the playoffs.
It's perfectly fair for Derrick Rose to take his time to come back if there is risk of injury, but there is significant doubt that this is the case anymore. Rose was injured April 28, 2012 in Game 1 of the playoffs. Taking into account that his procedure was a few weeks later, that puts Rose at 11.5 months removed from ACL surgery.
The timeline that was given by Dr. Brian Cole after Rose's surgery in May claimed that the return could range anywhere from eight to 12 months. When referring to NBA timelines, the return date is almost always earlier on the scale.
Two players who tore their ACLs in the same time frame as Derrick Rose are Iman Shumpert and Ricky Rubio. Ricky Rubio tore his ACL on March 9, about a month-and-a-half before Derrick. Iman Shumpert tore his ACL on April 28, only a few hours after Rose. Ricky Rubio returned in December, which put him on the nine-month track of the timeline. Shumpert returned in the middle of January, around eight-and-a half months after ACL surgery. Both players are playing full-time minutes this season.
To be fair, neither player has been what they were before the injury as yet, and it's unlikely they'll return to previous glory until they have a summer to train and recover. But the fact is, they're physically able to play and are doing their best to contribute to their teams, even though this has been a nightmare season for Rubio's Timberwolves.
Derrick Rose was cleared for full-contact practice at the end of January, and was officially cleared to return to action March 9. When a player is cleared to return to action, typically that means that any structural damage has been resolved, and the player isn't significantly more likely to get injured than in any other game situation.
There has been a sentiment that it is in Rose's best interest to make sure he is 110 percent when he comes back, because coming back earlier will result in compensatory injuries, and compensatory injuries are certainly a legitimate concern for Derrick.
Worst case scenario though, if Derrick gets a compensatory injury, so what? He likely goes out for the rest of the season and playoffs, which he is already doing anyway. After that, he has months before he has to play again and can use that time to get healthy.
There's not a compensatory injury that Rose can get that will cause him to be unhealthy to start the 2013-14 season. If any more serious injury were to happen, it would not be compensatory, it would be a structural weakness, and that's an issue that would likely have popped up regardless during training or during next season.
Assuming Rose comes back at the beginning of next season, he will have gone 18 months without playing a single professional basketball game. The Rose camp can certainly make the argument that Derrick wants to be at 110 percent when he returns, but is it really possible to be at 110 percent if you haven't played competitive basketball for a year-and-a-half? Hardly.
More than any of the previous options though, Derrick owes it to the organization to do everything he can to get on the court. Derrick made $16.4 million this season in salary, not to mention the shoe deal from Adidas that pays him upwards of $14 million a year. Hell, do we want to talk about the huge ad campaign by Adidas, #TheReturn?
Derrick very well may not be ready to play MVP-level basketball right now due to rust and minor injuries. So? Joakim Noah has played for weeks through plantar fasciitis. Luol Deng has played the last season-and-a-half with a torn ligament in his wrist. On the Los Angeles Lakers, Metta World Peace returned from a torn meniscus in 12 days for goodness sake!
It is absolutely true that every sports analyst in America will be jockeying to be the first one to say that Rose is done, that he is no longer a superstar, that he is not a franchise player, and it is true that Derrick coming back and playing below-elite basketball will only accentuate this issue. But right now, Rose is the butt of jokes all across America.
Just take the popular Facebook page, NBA Memes. The page has had a field day with Rose. There have been jokes about how Rondo and Kobe will return before him, about how his one-year-old son will be an NBA player before he is, about how we'll find Dory before he returns, and a plethora of other humorous memes.
My point is this: Derrick has nothing to lose by coming back. His reputation as a basketball player slips every day he does not play, and it will not return until he does.
If Rose's knee is structurally sound, then the next step for rehab is to play basketball. And considering he gets paid over $30 million a year to play professional basketball, it's time for him to play professional basketball.