[Note by JayPatt, 05/11/13 10:55 PM CDT: There's a report from Aggrey Sam saying Rose "strongly considered" coming back for Heat, but ultimately decided against it and won't play at all this series. Shocking, I know]
[Note by your friendly BullsBlogger, 05/10/13 11:10 AM CDT : Rose is out for game 3. Add Alex Kennedy to the shit list, everyone.]
[Note by your friendly BullsBlogger, 05/07/13 8:51 PM CDT: since you loonys can't stop mentioning it, Alex Kennedy posted some 'unconfirmed' 'word out of Chicago' that Rose may put on a uniform in game three, and that doing so doesn't even mean he'll play. Got that? ]
The Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat kick off their second round series on Monday night. Despite no shortage of stirring on-court storylines, much of the national conversation continues to center around Derrick Rose. Rose returned to full contact practices on January 29; on March 9, an ESPN Chicago report stated Rose was medically cleared to play by doctors. Rose has chosen to sit out the entire season up to this point, but continues to the leave door open for a potential return during the playoffs. Rose says he won't return until he feels right, and he believes that day could come at any time. The situation hasn't really changed much since February, when Rose talked to USA Today about his recovery, but it hasn't halted nationwide discussion about the Bulls guard.
On Monday, Rose talk dominated the airwaves. Rose's place in the series was a lead topic of discussion on ESPN's Outside the Lines. SportsCenter debated whether Rose would return vs. the Heat. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were asked if Rose's return would surprise them. Rose's status for Game 1 (he's out!) was top headline on ESPN.com.
Whether it's fair or not, the story of the 2012-2013 Chicago Bulls has become the juxtaposition of Rose choosing not to return vs. the way his teammates have overcome a swell of injuries and adversity to reach the second round of the playoffs. The Bulls had no business advancing past the first round, not with Joakim Noah battling plantar fasciitis, not with Taj Gibson hobbled by a knee sprain, not with Kirk Hinrich missing the last two games with a calf injury, not with three key players suffering from the flu in Game 6. Luol Deng's illness was so bad it necessitated a spinal tap and multi-day hospital stay. Yet, the Bulls still defeated the Brooklyn Nets on the road in Game 7, meaning the country has a few more days to talk about Rose and if he will come back.
That Tom Thibodeau and his team continue to get asked daily about Rose is what's really unfortunate. It's clear at this point that Rose's situation was mishandled. The thing is, there wasn't much the team could do. The Bulls weren't the ones who mishandled Rose, it was the fault of Rose and his handlers.
The Bulls never publicly shut him down because Rose kept refusing to close the door on returning this season. Thibodeau and the Bulls also continued to say they would welcome Rose back this season. Shutting him down would have been counter-intuitive. Ideally, the Bulls wanted him back, and reporters covering the team have been consistent in saying few in the organization expected Rose would sit the entire season. No one saw this coming, not the team and certainly not the fans.
Credit the Bulls for supporting Rose through all of this, and for making it clear it's his decision from the start. The Bulls haven't put any public pressure on him to return, though some believe letting the scoop that he was cleared to play slip was their way of doing so.
The problem is that this is still very much a national firestorm, even if it's clear at this point Rose won't return. I believe Rose should have come back in March or April, but choosing to play vs. Miami of all teams after missing the entire regular season is insane. It's a completely unrealistic expectation some fans still truly believe will happen.
It's hard to feel bad for Rose, since this is his call. It appears obvious to anyone paying attention Rose made up his mind a while ago that he wasn't coming back. It's not like there's some tangible hurdle for Rose to clear: the only thing preventing Rose from playing is waking up on day and feeling like going to work.
This is what makes the final step of ordeal so confusing: why didn't Rose and his people tell the Bulls to shut him down? If that would have happened, the team would have avoided a sizable distraction and Rose would have saved face publicly. Instead, Bulls-Heat now exists within a charged atmosphere where some really believe Rose may return.
It's very likely this saga will blow over next season when Rose returns and the Bulls regain their spot as one of the best teams in the NBA. Still, the team's continued success in the face of miles of adversity not only makes Rose look bad but justifies an added degree of frustration from fans. It's ridiculous we're still talking about Rose this way, but it's no one's fault but his own.