Any time you think he’s leaning one way, he sends you back the other way.
So the notion of Rose returning for the Chicago Bulls' first-round matchup against the Brooklyn Nets—or any postseason game for that matter—is just one big juke.
Rose continued to sit with injury as the pedal of impatience was pushed with greater force following Chicago’s Game 1 loss on Saturday, a 106-89 no-doubter in Brooklyn.
Should he return? Ideally, of course. He would be an incredible asset to the Bulls.
But that’s taking into account that he’s both physically and, most importantly, mentally healthy to return.
But will he return?
Nope, Rose isn’t flying back into Chicago with Air Jordan’s flair for the return or Willis Reed’s comeback bravado.
The Bulls, namely coach Tom Thibodeau, have been all but 100 percent in ruling out that Rose will, could, should or might not return.
Bulls beat writer K.C. Johnson from the Chicago Tribune must tire from the day-by-day conjecture and uncertainty surrounding the topic:
Of course, much of the ambiguity comes via the indecisiveness of Rose’s “we’ll see” statements that began since the pressure mounted midway through the season. It was then that voices began to wonder when the Bulls superstar would return from the ACL injury he suffered in Game 1 of last season’s playoffs.
Joakim Noah played through plantar fasciitis on Saturday, though he played just 13 minutes in the blowout. That's a stark contrast to Rose's decision not to suit up at all.
Apparently Rose doesn’t want to be 100 percent; he needs to be 400 percent.
He was cleared to play by doctors in early March:
"I'm feeling good, but like I said, if it's where it's taking me a long time and I'm still not feeling right, I don't mind missing this year," he said, according to Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com. "I would love to [return]. I would love to. That's why I approached my rehab and my workout so hard. I'm trying to get back on the court as quickly as possible, but if I have anything lingering on, it's no point."
That same report claimed that Rose would return when he could “confidently dunk off his left foot.”
Well, on April 7, he checked that box:
Of course, it’s unprincipled to demand that an athlete return from an injury that only he and those close to him understand. But the question of should he return—thrown in a vacuum that neglects his personal fears of re-injury, poor performance or whatever his struggle may be—is obvious.
Yes, of course he should.
And if he did return during this postseason, and actually succeeded, he would suddenly become a legend. People dig comebacks, and Rose has made himself into an underdog.
The Bulls need him.
Rose averaged 21.8 points and 7.9 assists in the 2011-12 regular season.
This season, without its superstar point guard, Chicago managed to place fifth in the Eastern Conference as a defensive team that rebounded well and spread the ball to various scoring options. The Bulls were the fifth-rated defensive team (100.3), they had the fifth-highest offensive rebound percentage (29.4) and the sixth-highest assist ratio (17.9).
In Saturday's lopsided loss, the Bulls did none of those things. The Nets shot 55.8 percent from the field and finished with more rebounds and assists than the Bulls.
Starting point guard Kirk Hinrich scored just two points and added two assists. Nate Robinson, however, scored 17 points off the bench, and Marco Belinelli scored 13 points.
Teams scout one another to such great detail in the playoffs; it’s what makes execution so important. As much as the rust would need to be shaken from Rose’s skill set and ability to run an offense, that would be offset by the Nets’ inability to game-plan for him.
Rose won a Most Valuable Player Award for his ability to single-handedly break down defenses. Imagine what he could bring to spark the Bulls offense.
While there is no telling how Rose would perform if he made the decision to return, it’s clear the Bulls need his presence on the court to shift momentum and heal a team that’s limped into the postseason.
Chicago lost four of seven games entering the playoffs and is now reeling from the Game 1 laugher in Brooklyn.
For the sake of speculation, perhaps Rose feared he might return and disrupt the success of the Bulls and become a reason for their failure.
Now, though, no one expects him to turn the Bulls around, and he certainly wouldn't be ruining anything special. If he returns with the Bulls at this down-and-out point, he returns with no risk. Rose is playing with the house’s money.
The timing is perfect for Rose to make one last drive off that crossover in a heroic postseason return.
Advanced stats courtesy of Hollinger Team Statistics.