His ACL rehab and highly anticipated return cast a shadow over the entire season, and when he was medically cleared to play in March, his absence fueled a growing controversy.
Rose didn't return to the floor in the eight-to-12-month time frame that was projected, and the Bulls could have used his help in the playoffs. But head coach Tom Thibodeau defended the cautious approach when he addressed reporters:
If we were going to make a mistake, we wanted to make the mistake on the side of caution. We feel good about where he is. He has the whole summer to build more confidence and 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. I think it was the smart decision.
Since Rose was medically cleared on March 9 and opted not to play through May, Bulls fans and league-wide fans began to question his toughness, his mental strength and his commitment to the franchise.
Even fellow NBA players expressed their disappointment in Rose's delayed return.
Fortunately for Rose, his teammates and coach were 100 percent behind his cautious approach.
And we should be, too.
Say what you want about the Bulls' playoff chances if he was on the court. Say what you want about Rose's "selfishness" and doing what's right for himself instead of the team. Say what you want about his mental obstacles to returning.
The bottom line is that Thibodeau knows he'll have a fully healthy, explosive Rose entering the 2013-14 campaign.
That's a comforting thing for all parties involved.
Sure, the Bulls could have handled the public relations end of things better. But in the end, it doesn't matter what everyone else thinks. What matters is the long-term health of Rose and the entire squad.
Throwing himself into the playoff fray would have been a dicey scenario, even if he had doctors' approval to return.
Rose's style of play is aggressive, slashing and aerial in nature. It involves forays to the rim and encounters with players much bigger and stronger than him.
Making his season debut in the middle of the Miami Heat series would have been extremely difficult on Rose and his teammates. Adjusting to NBA-caliber competition is tough enough, much less in the playoffs against the defending champs.
New York Times columnist Scott Turow reminded us that what is popular is not always right, and that was the case in this Rose saga:
Turow noted that Rose was put under extra pressure by two non-basketball factors: "The Return" advertisement campaign by Adidas and the superhuman ACL recovery by Minnesota Vikings football star Adrian Peterson.
The mid-winter commercials served to stir up the fanbase's anticipation more than usual, and Peterson's astounding return to the gridiron set the bar incredibly high.
Rose and the Bulls didn't let this off-the-court pressure coerce them to bring him back before he was totally physically and mentally ready to play.
No one has a better grip on this situation than Rose, his coaching staff and the rest of the men in that locker room.
It's about time we trust their judgement.
Instead of questioning their 2012-13 decision-making, let's look forward to Rose flying all over the court without inhibitions in 2013-14.
Enough of the speculation, the what-ifs and the second-guessing. It's wishful thinking that Rose would have helped the Bulls hoist the 2013 Larry O'Brien trophy and unhealthy to rush him back before he's ready.
The Chicago native took a beating throughout the spring for "not being competitive enough" to help his teammates. That's fine by him. He knows he'll soon have plenty of opportunities to prove his passion and toughness.
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