Derrick Rose had surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee on May 12. On January 31, he was cleared for full contact practices. On February 13, he told the USA Today he was 'in the high 80s' physically and that he wouldn't come back until he was '110 percent'. On March 3, Rose sat on the Bulls' bench in street clothes at an away game against the Indiana Pacers for the first and only time this season. On March 9, word leaked that Rose's doctor had given him the go-ahead to return to games when he felt comfortable. On March 21, Rose, on the subject of his return, told reporters "nobody knows but God."
For as much sarcasm as his latest statement has drawn, "nobody knows but God" would seem to sum up Rose's potential return and the nauseating rhetoric surrounding it better than just about anything else. Since Rose started opening up to the media about his condition in February, seemingly every NBA fan has turned into a medical professional. People have strong opinions, opinions on when and if Rose should play, how playing or not playing will affect his body and the long-term viability of his game, on whether or not Rose owes the organization, his teammates or the fans anything at all. It's created a toxic atmosphere that undoubtedly trumps whatever it is the Bulls are doing on the floor.
Derrick Rose is bigger than the team, and everyone knows it. It's left a crippling sense of anxiety hanging over everything. Now that anxiety is turning into full-blown dread.
The Bulls have 13 games remaining in the regular season, with the next one coming Wednesday against the historically hot Miami Heat. If Derrick Rose is going to come back, he's going to have to do it soon.
Or maybe he won't come back at all. Rose said sitting the entire campaign was a possibility in February, and the likelihood that he plays for the Bulls at all this season grows more remote with each passing game. Do the Bulls need to put a hard deadline on his return? Steve Aschburner of NBA.com took it one step further.
Aschburner wrote on Sunday that it's in the best interest of all parties for the Bulls to shut Rose down right now for the entire season. It's a decision that would mean resolve and clarity for a situation that's only become more bothersome as it's dragged out. The Bulls and Rose can put an end to all of it tomorrow and focus on what they've been the entire season. They can finally stop waiting for their savior and embrace what they have. They can finally put an end to the rampant speculation that's been hovering over the team for months.
It's not an easy decision, though. For one, I don't believe Rose would be willing to accept it, at least not yet. He's still working in five-on-five scrimmages whenever Chicago's schedule allows it. He's noticeably gotten stronger. He's reportedly improved his outside shooting and added a lefty floater. Maybe he's even grown an inch. His teammates rave about him in practices.
It certainly seems like Derrick Rose is physically capable of playing today. What that means for the Bulls' immediate future is anyone guess.
A hardline deadline for Rose still seems reasonable, though. But would it create more trouble than it's worth?
If he wants to come back, the Bulls can tell him, he has to do it by April 2 against Washington. That would give Rose 10 games to get acclimated before the playoffs start.
Or maybe Rose shouldn't play in the playoffs at all. It's another issue up for debate. The old adage in the NBA is that play slows down and the physicality and intensity is revved up in the postseason. Rose learned that lesson first hand against Jeff Foster and the rest of the Pacers in a first round series in 2011.
But what if Rose wants to suit up with only a week or two left in the season? The Bulls could still decide to leave him off the active playoff roster. Point is, if Rose wants to come back, even with only a handful of games left, it's going to be very hard for the Bulls to tell him no.
Placing a deadline on his comeback could go a long way towards bringing resolve to the situation, if Rose will allow it. That's what Bulls fans want more than anything right now: some clarity on what to expect the rest of the season.