Derrick Rose might not have had all of Chicago supporting his decision to sit out the entire 2012-13 season while rehabbing from a torn ACL, but he can call at least one Windy City legend an ally.
Scottie Pippen, who played 12 seasons with the Chicago Bulls, said Rose had every right to stay away from the floor until he felt completely comfortable to return. And, despite what certain media reports suggested, Rose was the only one who could have made that call.
"I was kind of surprised people turned on him knowing the difficulty of Derrick's injury," Pippen said, via Scott Powers of ESPNChicago. "No one can justify what he's going through. No one can make his decision as to when to get back on the basketball court."
Pippen, who made seven All-Star Games and won six championships during his 17-year career, said the criticisms that Rose took may have been misguided:
As a player that has played this game, I know at the end of the day I've had numerous amount of surgeries, and the doctors released me at numerous amount of times to go and play. But a lot of those times didn't (they) didn't mean to and play against the best in the world right now, but to get yourself ready to compete again. Sometimes as a player, you're not there yet. The doctor can tell you the headache is gone, but he don't totally know that it is gone unless he can get in your head.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose began taking part in "full contact" practice in late January, leading some to speculate that the point guard would return to action near the All-Star break. That day came and went, then reports surfaced that Rose had been given medical clearance to play. More projected return dates popped up, but none proved correct.
When Chicago limped into the second round of the postseason with a hobbled roster of injured players and slightly less injured ones willing their way through each contest, the criticisms of Rose only heightened in intensity.
Pippen experienced the franchise's highest highs and knows better than anyone just where the standards have been set for this team. So he said that even though the anxious fanbase may not have had a perfect read of the situation, their impatience was at least understandable.
"Fans are demanding," he said. "They want to win. They want it now. If you have an injury, they want you back the next day."
The Bulls could have handled the situation better than they did. There's no good reason why Rose's medical clearance was ever linked to the media. His numerous public pregame workouts only fueled talks of his impending return.
The longer the situation dragged out, the more those talks to turned back on Rose. Fans wondered what else he needed to see before actually playing in a game, since both the team and the media seemed to place that decision solely on his shoulders.
Different things surfaced as the rumored final steps in the process.
Some said he was waiting until he could confidently dunk off of his left foot. Others said that the physical side of his recovery outpaced the mental portion, and that he'd never return until both were completely healed.
Looking beyond this one-year window, though, there was no reason to rush him back to the floor. The 24-year-old has already established himself as a special talent in this league. Don't forget he's just two years removed from becoming the youngest MVP winner in NBA history.
So while it may have been inspiring to watch him take a step into the unknown alongside his teammates who were clearly dealing with their own ailments, Rose wasn't willing to compromise his future just to serve as an emotional rallying point.
And he shouldn't have been. No player means more to the future of this franchise than the former MVP, so getting him back at 100 percent was always the top priority.
Now after excruciatingly long months of waiting, was it all worth it? If you believe what Thibodeau's saying (via Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago) about how Rose looks now, then the answer is an unequivocal yes:
Watching the way he's moving now, there's a confidence. [Reporters] may not have been able to see the total work he was putting in, but he was putting in an enormous amount of work each and every day. He just never got to the explosiveness that he was comfortable with. I think he's there now. He feels great, and that's the most important thing.
It wasn't always easy to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but Pippen promised it will be a brilliant sight to behold.
"I don't have any doubt," Pippen said. "Derrick is a very determined, hardworking player, so I don't have any doubt he will be back bigger and better as ever."