Regardless of what happens in the 2012-13 NBA postseason, Derrick Rose's tango and subsequent failure to return for any of the Chicago Bulls' 82 regular season games is the biggest disappointment of this NBA season.
Doug Padilla of ESPN Chicago helped report that Rose would not suit up for Chicago's regular season finale on Wednesday night against the Washington Wizards, but the see-saw games continue as Rose would also not rule out a postseason return.
Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau weighed in before Wednesday night's game, and the story hasn't changed much since Rose was cleared to return (h/t Padilla):
It could be; he's still not ready, Thibodeau said when asked if there was a possibility Rose could return for the postseason. We feel good about the guys we do have and we just want to keep improving and let Derrick handle his rehab and just be ready for whoever we're facing.
It's the same song and dance from this entire Bulls season.
Even with the Kobe Bryant injury, the Andrew Bynum saga and concurrent disappointing season in Philadelphia and other individual storylines that have captivated the NBA this season, the situation in Chicago has been by far the most disappointing of the year.
Be it the report of being cleared by team doctors (h/t ESPN), the additional information that Rose was practicing and dunking with teammates or the daily informational update on his current status that has always been a negative, Rose takes the cake as the biggest letdown of the season so far.
Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Rosenbloom, for one, has had enough of it.
Rosenbloom issued a public challenge to Rose on Wednesday afternoon, calling out the one-time MVP for being so cautious in his attempt to climb back to 110 percent that he forgot about one thing: You have to play to get back to that level of excellence.
Rose is two months past the time when doctors cleared Rose to scrimmage in practice without restrictions. He scrimmaged. He ran and dunked and shot, and teammates have said he looks great.
But no, Rose won’t play. Or maybe his brother won’t let him. Rose has gone rogue. He suddenly has shown as little respect for his rehab schedule as Nate Robinson shows for game plans.
Rose wants to come back "110 percent." He can’t. No one can. He has to play games to come close to even 100 percent. Everybody inside and outside the Bulls knows this. Everyone is tired of Rose’s reluctance to continue the course of recovery. But nobody in a prominent position wants to say it.
Teammates, Bulls wonks and opponents all encourage Rose to wait until he believes he’s ready. But really, what else could they say?
Strong words from a man who gets to see first-hand just how different the Bulls have been this season than their previous two campaigns with both Thibodeau and a healthy Rose leading the way.
Chicago had two-straight seasons of finishing first in both their division and conference the past two seasons, culminating with a first-round series against Philadelphia that will forever be known as the series that cost Rose an entire season.
Since Rose went down in Game 1 of that series, the Bulls have gone 1-4 in the playoffs, and failed to eclipse the 50-win mark for the first time in the Thibodeau era. As noted by Rosenbloom, it's amazing that the coaching staff has managed to put Chicago in a position to claim one of the East's playoff spots after the Rose fiasco and other injuries (Rip Hamilton, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson) that have rocked the roster this season.
At this point, a Rose return is almost a joke.
New York Daily News reporter Frank Isola posted this tweet on Wednesday that helped satirize the situation past the disappointment that the city of Chicago likely feels about Rose's health situation:
In the spirit of fairness, Rose's knee injury has been nothing to take lightly.
Not everyone is Adrian Peterson, and the NFL MVP's quick recovery from an ACL tear has placed unfair expectations on players in a wide range of sports that are trying to come back from that same injury.
Not every body is the same.
Rose has been clear as day when he says that he wants to be 110 percent before trying to start games again. While certainly respectful of his long-term future, taking a year off from a sport isn't an easy thing to just hop back into.
With the support of nearly everyone in the Bulls' safety net of personnel and teammates, Rose has not felt rushed to return to the court, and no one has insinuated that he is being too cautious with this knee injury as April 28—the one-year anniversary of the injury—approaches.
But for paying fans and the integrity of the NBA game, it almost seems unfair to say that Rose should not at least be testing his surgically repaired knee if doctors have cleared him for the past month and a half and practice sessions are going as good as teammates say in pre-game interviews.
At the very least, it's been disappointing.
With the playoffs now fully underway after Wednesday night's finale and No. 1 not suiting up for the Bulls all season, there are more questions than answers than ever. While the conservative viewers out there have a fair point about Rose's long-term health questions, short-term proponents of taking advantage of every day you are given have a point, too.
Regardless of how the Bulls end the 2013 playoffs, this has been a disappointing season in Chicago. From injuries to a dropoff from the past two seasons, Chicago has been victimized by the fact that its best player has been sidelined for the entirety of the season.
Only an NBA Finals win and a Rose return for the playoffs would make this season anything but disappointing. While both are still possibilities, it's foolish to consider either a favorite given the current NBA circumstances we've been given.
If you're a Bulls fan and you shake your head when someone mentions the 2012-13 season of Derrick Rose, don't be alarmed—you're not alone.
Bulls constituents everywhere are in the same boat.
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