You can't always get what you want.
Derrick Rose took the league by storm in 2010-11, becoming the league's youngest MVP ever and, in the process, making basketball more relevant in his city than it had been since Michael Jordan skipped town.
But the Chicago Bulls point guard hasn't been able to continue along that trajectory. As much as everyone wants him to be the franchise's next night-to-night dynamo, his body simply hasn't let this be the case. Rose's bones are inherently weary, and the pressure his high-octane playing style puts on them exacerbates the tragic situation of his recurring injuries.
Rose is not the Bulls' savior. He may be their best player, but as long as his body requires a ton of maintenance, Tom Thibodeau's squad will have to rely more on a system than on a star to thrive. That's why the Bulls' newfound care with Rose's health is the best strategy for achieving the greatest end of an NBA championship.
Like Dwyane Wade with the Miami Heat before him, Rose's crumbly skeleton can be preserved throughout the season. If the Bulls rest their nuclear offensive option appropriately, he can be spry and devastating when it matters: springtime.
Last season, Wade missed 28 regular-season games but played all of them in the postseason. His frame didn't hold up well enough for him to perform at a high level in the NBA Finals—he turned the ball over 3.6 times per game as the San Antonio Spurs demolished Miami—but Wade was every bit his sharp self during the Eastern Conference playoffs, shooting over 50 percent from the floor against the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers. The Heat couldn't have made it to the Finals without him.
This was nothing new, either. Over his career, Wade has missed an average of 18.5 games per season. The Heat have always realized that their best chance at winning when it matters is maintained as Wade's body is maintained. This isn't just something that's been done as he's aged. As a 25-year-old, Wade missed 31 games in 2007-08. In 2006-07 (when he was a mere 24) he also sat for 31 contests. Extended rest was Miami's best answer for the tough spot that having a fragile dynamo put them in.
The Bulls, likewise, probably can't fulfill their high 2014-15 expectations without Rose at top form. And that's why the Chicago native has already missed more than half of his team's games. Rather than playing with accumulating hurts like he used to, Rose and his team are now making sure he's only taking the floor in pristine condition. Rose running down the court with sprained ankles or a tweaked hamstring is a surefire plan for another slew of compound injuries and possibly another season-ending event.
That's why Rose is choosing his spots now. This, of course, wasn't always the case. Recent critics of Rose's character seem to have forgotten how often he used to play through pain. That gaggle includes the Chicago Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom (subscription required), who took to bullying Rose's image in the wake of recent comments he made about resting:
Rose needs a friend. Does Rose have a friend? Rose needs a friend. Because a friend would tell him how dumb he sounds and looks. I don't know if that's his brother or agent putting that garbage in his head, but it's one of the most embarrassing things a player can say. Thing is, it's not just that the statement is idiotic, it's that he apparently believes it. It's galling and stupid, and Rose doesn't seem smart enough to understand why.
The thing with Derrick is, I was there from his rookie year, I've watched him growing up. When he first came to the league, me and Joakim [Noah] would always tell him, 'Derrick, you can't play tonight. You're hurt.' And he always wants to put the team behind him and the city behind him. And even when he was hurt, he would play.
And I really believe that some of his injuries were because he would play hurt. We would tell him not to. And he was so determined and wanted to be the best he could be, not only for the team, [but] for the city. And we kept trying to tell him to understand, like, 'Look, there's a difference between pain and injury.' And I think now after two injuries, he's being smart.
As alluring as the concept of Herculean effort in the face of a breaking body is, it's not intelligent. Fans and skeptics alike should put their fantasy of Rose filling Jordan's shoes—or even LeBron's—to rest. He's got the motor, skill and drive to consistently compete for the MVP trophy, but not the bodily endurance. There's nothing he can do about his genes but cooperate with them.
And at the end of the day, while a wisdom about his health may make for some disappointing regular-season viewing, a strategically rested Rose is the most likely man to take his team to the promised land of an NBA title.