Read Between the Lines
The biggest off-court story of the season has been the heavily anticipated(commercialized) return of Derrick Rose. While the Adidas-sponsored comeback has made for some slick commercials, the actual return itself has been left fairly ambiguous. Would it be mid-February? March? The playoffs? Nobody ever has ever supplied a crystal clear answer to that question. Since Rose's recent interviews, though, Bulls fans have begun to hold their collective breath. The truth is beginning to look more like none of the above. And that's OK, Bulls fans. In fact, it's a good thing.
This week's media blitz caught Chicago off-guard. Local beat writers felt slighted by Rose's choice of USA Today as his first interview. Eventually, the Chicago Tribune got an after-practice one-on-one chat with him. Each answer seemed more cryptic than the last. "I'd love to play this year but don't mind missing the season." Other quotes were like "I'd say my chances are 50/50 playing this season." Read between the lines. The process of lowering expectations has already begun. I for one am relieved by his self-awareness.
Rose's triumphant return for the final eight weeks of the season never made sense. While it makes for a great marketing campaign, it's not practical in real life. Basketball is not the kind of sport you can jump into at full speed. Especially playoff basketball, which is a whole different kind of animal. The probability of pushing oneself too hard is always there. Especially someone of Rose's caliber. Coming back at anything less than "110%" would be simply foolish. The entire fate of this man's career -- not to mention the Bulls franchise -- depends on his reconstructed knee.
Anybody who thinks the Bulls are going to contend for a championship this year is kidding themself. Have you seen Lebron play the past four weeks? The Bulls are what they are: a solid 3-5 seed in the Eastern Conference. Rose's return wouldn't change that. They have played remarkably well in his absence as a defensive minded, well balanced team in every sense of the word. Carlos Boozer is finally earning the money they overpaid him three years ago. Joakim Noah and Loul Deng are having career years in his absence.
Are the Bulls better off without Rose? Of course not. However, his returning to ignite a deep playoff run is pure fantasy.
The Bulls are a 'second round and done' team with or without him. Best case scenario: They reach the Eastern finals and get steamrolled by the Heat. Is risking his entire career worth any of that? Rose doesn't think so, and neither should you. There's just too much future potential there.
Chicago fans need to look at big picture. Lebron could be opting out of Miami next season. Wade is entering the twilight of his career. The Heat menace will not be around forever. The Bulls' best days are still ahead of them. Let's hope they keep it that way.