Since the beginning of the 2012-13 NBA regular season, the world has waited in anticipation of the return of Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. The 2011 league MVP has yet to hit the court, however, as he continues to recover from a torn left ACL.
If the Bulls are wise, they won't expect Rose to return for the postseason.
There has been no shortage of speculation as to when D-Rose would make his comeback. That talk became all the more rampant when Melissa Isaacson of ESPN Chicago reported that Rose had been medically cleared to play.
Even still, Rose has been unfazed by the talk and remained patient.
With that patience, however, has come a lack thereof from fans and reporters both in Chicago and across the world. It doesn't help his cause that Rose has made his comeback a public spectacle with Adidas commercials and interviews.
It's also rather detrimental that he routinely dunks in front of thousands of fans, but chooses to sit prior to games.
For the Bulls to make a run in the postseason, they must move forward under the impression that Rose will not return. They are preparing to play the class of the Eastern Conference, and at this stage, Chicago has fared inconsistently.
It's time to come together without Rose or face a first-round elimination.
Players Chime In
According to Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago, the Bulls' available players spoke on the topic of the availability of Derrick Rose. Amongst those speculative players were sixth man Taj Gibson and power forward Carlos Boozer.
When asked if he ever wondered what could be with Rose on the floor, Gibson had the following to say:
"Without a doubt...With Derrick [Rose], he just gives us that extra edge. He's a closer, really. He's our closer. For him to be in late, I remember a lot of games late we had to finish the game, he had to just dominate, finish the game for us.
"Just to have that kind of aspect and have a guard that can create his own shot and help others get their own shot, that would just put us over the hump even more."
There are few who would argue with anything that Gibson expressed.
In 2010-11, Rose was third in the NBA in terms of clutch scoring behind the Oklahoma City Thunder tandem of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Rose was also fifth in the NBA in terms of clutch assists.
With that being said, Boozer is well-aware that the Bulls can't be caught up in the past if they plan on moving forward.
"We can't worry about all that," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said of Rose's status. "We just got to worry about what's in front of us. He's doing his job on what he has to do. We're doing our job on what we have to do and if he comes back ... whew, it would be awesome. If he doesn't then we got to go with what we got."
When Boozer was asked if he was holding on to hope for Rose's potential return, however, he responded with one word: "Absolutely."
Boozer was right in both of the sentiments that he expressed. If the Bulls are too focused on what could be, they'll never be able to handle what currently is.
Preparing for a First-Round Brawl
Depending on how the Atlanta Hawks close out their season, the Chicago Bulls will face either the Indiana Pacers or Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the 2013 NBA postseason. Thus far in 2012-13, they're 1-3 against Indiana and 3-1 against Brooklyn.
More importantly, the Bulls are 1-3 against those two teams when they're on the road—an unfortunate truth considering Chicago will play without home-court advantage.
Both the Pacers and Nets play physical defense and boast Top 10 scoring defenses. They're also teams that have history with the Bulls, as they've either become rivals or played down-to-the-wire finishes.
For instance, two of Chicago's three wins over Brooklyn have come by an average of 1.5 points per game.
With this in mind, it's fair to assume that the Bulls will have trouble getting by either opponent. It certainly doesn't help that Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams has finally caught fire, averaging 23.4 points and 8.1 assists since the All-Star Break.
With two potentially grueling matchups ahead of them, Chicago cannot afford to waste any time on the topic of Derrick Rose—they must prepare for two fights to the finish.
All statistics provided by NBA.com.