Rose learning how to handle the line between tough, stupid, and... necessary

Derrick Rose sprained his toe during last Tuesday's win in Minnesota, but has missed three of the five games since. He remains day-to-day after missing the MLK Day matinee in Memphis and the following night's game against the Suns due to a potpourri of conditions -- soreness in the big left toe, a "negative reaction" to painkilling medication, and a "sinus cold", K.C. Johnson reports.

Rose has missed just eight games in three-plus seasons. He said Monday he has an "old-school mentality where I don't want to miss any games."

Only Rose and Chris Paul have the Kobe-esque 'fight-to-win competitive edge', according to Kobe Bryant -- as combination of Rose's personality and abilities that are never questioned. Unlike Kobe and Paul, Rose doesn't have that overwhelming wealth of versatile basketball talent, but the three all lack the bodies to sustain the wear, tear, and beatings of NBA seasons. All three are forced to max out every strength in their game every night to pull out victories.

What scary for Bulls fans and NBA enthusiasts infatuated by watching Rose choreograph his way through puzzles of giants is the pending doom of the hits he sustains, the ways he pushes off his ankles at angles which threaten the human body, and the way his relatively small body strikes the hardwood floor from eight or nine feet in the air. Watching is MVP season led to whispers that a serious injury to Rose is as "inevitable" as they seemed to observers of the young Dwyane Wade and Allen Iverson.

Watching the Bulls struggle for every rare bucket without him in the two games over the last week had Rick Morrisey compiling the fears in one negative Nancy column that arouses a completely non-irrational fear:

With the way Rose attacks a game, a major injury is likely someday. It hurts just to write that. But the very thing that makes him great, his ferocity, is the very thing that will bring him down. No player in the NBA drives the lane with Rose's reckless abandon.

[...]

Teams win because their stars carry the load. A player can't go through life worried about getting injured. Rose has gotten this far by throwing caution to the wind and throwing his body at bigger players.

He's dealing with the sprained big toe now. A few weeks before, it was an elbow issue after he landed hard. Bumps, bruises and muscle strains come with the territory. He has had ankle sprains that looked gruesome in slow motion but haven't slowed him much. Maybe I underestimate his physical strength and his ability to heal.

[...]

In the end, though, the only way to protect against a bad injury is by tapping on the brakes. That's not going to happen with Rose. He's not slowing down. The last time there was a guy around here with this kind of will to win and these off-the-charts skills, we were on a first-name basis with him: Michael. Rose is driven. He's tough. He's not going to go the safer route.

[...]

That's why a lot of Bulls fans and several Bulls executives put their hands over their eyes whenever it takes awhile for Rose to get up after a collision. They know what life looks like without him. It looks like Monday looked.

Whether or not Rose plays is up to him, as whether or not he can play is more related to pain. The higher the pain, the more the body deliberately avoids the pain and pushes other body parts over the edge to compensate. If he broke a bone, there'd be less concern, as doctors and trainers have more say; but -- low-hanging fruit aside -- it's the minor sprains and major pains that make Morrissey's column relevant to how Rose and the Bulls manage the health of the gravy train.

UPDATE -- Contrary to Dr. Thibs' early assessment, the Bulls have reclassified Rose's injury to "turf toe". WebMD uses terms like "ample time", "rested", "ibuprofen", "immobilized" to treat the injury over the "two to three weeks" healing time.

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