Now that the talk has died down, Rose needs to retire to the shadows like Gotham's biggest defender until he's officially ready to grace the Bulls' starting lineup again.
The "will he, won't he" speculation among media members, fans, Bulls coaches and players finally ended as Chicago's season did, a conclusion that prompted some to proclaim that Rose would have returned for Game 6 had the Bulls sent the series against the Miami Heat back to Chicago.
Rose somewhat infamously stated in February before he was cleared to play in March that he was going to have to be 110 percent before returning. Cleared the next month, he then wanted to dunk confidently on his left foot—the leg in which the ACL injury occurred.
Game after game, Chicago fans wished Rose was be wearing something other than a suit at the end of the Bulls bench. Rose is, after all, an NBA MVP, a player who has the ability to change a game with his quick first step, improving jump shot and fearlessness when attacking the rim.
Yet, "The Return" never came.
And Adidas, the Bulls and the city of Chicago wept.
Opinions on both sides of the tracks have kept Rose's return—or lack thereof—in the news. On one hand, impassioned reporters and fans have made public outcries regarding the situation. Those fans fearing that their star was fading under the pressure of having to carry the team and the fanbase so soon after his injury felt that Rose crumbled despite the Bulls giving him every opportunity to reclaim his spot in the lineup.
One day after the Bulls' elimination from the playoffs, CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel posed a question that many are wondering across the league: Can Rose's reputation ever recover? Comparing Rose to former Bull Scottie Pippen and the infamous 1994 playoff sit-out, Doyel wonders if we will ever forget about Rose's reluctance this season to lace them up.
Rich Mayor of the Chicago Tribune took a simpler approach, telling Rose "you owed us more" in the first sentence of his Friday column.
On the other side of the issue, compassionate viewers, coaches, teammates and others will defend Rose's decision to the death. They trust that the front office, coaches and training staff did their best to assess Rose, his mental and physical health and held him out for the right reasons—not wanting to risk his long-term health or the stability of the franchise moving forward.
The debate will not end until Rose is in the Bulls' starting lineup in a 2013-14 regular season game.
Hopefully, Rose's intense training schedule won't end, either.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau has been one of Rose's biggest supporters during this process (he's also been one of his biggest catalysts over the indecisiveness about playing, but that's a story for another day), and as any good coach knows, he will continue to monitor and push his star player in the offseason.
He said as much in the team's exit interviews, as chronicled by the Chicago Bull's Twitter account:
Thibs on D-Rose: "He's in a good place mentally. If we were going to make a mistake, we wanted to make the mistake on the side of caution."— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) May 16, 2013
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune provided a fuller perspective as Thibodeau expanded on the question of Rose's offseason activities:
He has to keep working...We feel good about where he is. He has the whole summer to build more confidence. That’s the important thing. As we said when he first had the surgery, we weren’t going to rush him back. And we held to that.
Per Johnson's report, Rose will travel to California to continue his training, rehab and preparation for next season, a ritual he has continued throughout his NBA career.
In doing so, let's hope Rose stays off the NBA map for the next couple of months.
Like it or not, the expectations for greatness will be there once again when Rose returns. He's an MVP, for goodness sakes, and the Bulls made it to the second round of the playoffs and won a game against the Heat without him.
In the minds of the Bulls' faithful, a Rose return will surely vault Chicago back to the top of the Eastern Conference, no?
Not if Rose isn't "110 percent."
We've heard for the last few months that Rose was not ready to play, both physically (through the quotes from he and his camp) and mentally (because of the events that transpired—injuries, a shot at the Heat) this season in Chicago.
As Jon Greenberg of ESPN Chicago points out, the Rose return was a hoax, maybe bigger than the Al Capone vault, if you're into American gangster conspiracy theories.
What's not a hoax is that Rose must use this offseason to figure out whatever lack of confidence, steadfast resolve or fear he had in returning and vanquish it for good.
Which side of the fence do you fall on?
It will have been a year and over seven months since the injury that Rose officially returns to the NBA hardwood in late October or early November (depending on the 2013-14 schedule). In the summer months that will soon follow, I, for one, am among the members of the media who don't want to see Rose's rehab update, offseason activities or anything other than a nice note about seeing him at a Jamba Juice in the news.
The 2012-13 NBA season was dominated with the "Rose return."
This offseason needs to be about nothing more than laying low, working on his training and getting in tip-top shape to reach the pinnacle that he outlined to reporters when he was so "close" to rejoining Chicago for the stretch run and the postseason.
Anything less might let those on the fence write him off for good.
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