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Derrick Rose will ruin us all

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This is only going to get worse without a little patience and perspective.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

It was evident Derrick Rose just didn't have it in him exactly one minute into Tuesday's game against the Nuggets. That's how long it took for Ty Lawson to strip Rose as he pulled up for three and push the ball for a layup at the other end. We've seen Rose block shots in similar situations before, but that seems like a lifetime ago now. He made no attempt to chase down Lawson on this night. It set the tone for a game in which Rose looked sluggish and maybe even disinterested before mercifully being pulled at halftime.

This was supposed to be a milestone game for Rose, the first time he would play in a back-to-back since tearing his meniscus in Portland almost exactly one year ago. You may remember that Rose was fighting through from a hamstring injury back then too, one suffered 10 days before the meniscus in his right knee would go.

Rose made his return to the Bulls on Monday in a win over Utah, 11 days and four games after injuring his hamstring in a 100-93 victory in Toronto. It was a game that showed what the Bulls could be at their best and their worst: a team capable of knocking off the conference-leading Raptors on the road but one unable to stay healthy while doing it.

It's almost tough to remember now after the injury, the missed games and all of the uncomfortable dialogue that came with it, but Rose looked pretty damn good on that night in Toronto. He finished with 20 points and four assists on 5-of-14 shooting in 30 minutes of action. He couldn't hit a three-pointer to save his life in that game, but he was aggressive going to the basket. It paid off in 10 free throw attempts, nine of which Rose converted.

I bring up that game against the Raptors because it was one of only two times we've been able to see the Bulls operate with their full squad this season. Yes, the campaign is only 15 games long at this point, but it's already sharing striking similarities with the last three years of the Chicago Bulls basketball. Mostly: Tom Thibodeau is playing his key players way too much, everyone is getting hurt and Rose isn't on the court.

It's been extremely frustrating. The Eastern Conference is wide open, and the Bulls have already shown they matchup well against Cleveland and Toronto. The Bulls might be the objective favorite in the East at this point, but it's a statement that comes with loaded caveats. The Bulls are the best team in the East if Rose can be the player we saw against the Cavs and Raps, if Joakim Noah can get and stay healthy, if Pau can maintain this level of play through a ridiculous workload and if Jimmy Butler's amazing early season effort proves to be sustainable.

Basically, there's a lot that can go wrong for the Bulls, but if everything is working this team could be pretty great. Unfortunately, I fear it's playing out exactly how I wrote in my season preview. There's a potential juggernaut here, but it's all so damn fragile.

Who is to blame for this? Is it Rose for failing to push himself through nagging injuries? Is it Thibodeau for being so short-sighted during the regular season? Is it the media and the fans for applying public pressure to see a full product on the court even while the principle pieces are injured?

There is no right or wrong answer. We are not above it, either.

The best thing you can say about Rose at this point is that ankle sprains and hamstring strains aren't season-threatening. Unfortunately, the flip side is that those injuries offer no definitive timetable. It is tough playing basketball on a sprained ankle, let alone two of them. The human hamstring is precious thing, and it's nothing to mess with. These are real injuries but when Rose misses games with them, there's a sense that he could be on the court if he wanted it more.

Wanted it more. It sounds so jarring when stated that bluntly but it's an opinion so many people in this town have. I hear it all the time, even from people much smarter than me.

Because Jimmy Butler is playing through a thumb and shoulder injury, because we've seen Bulls players valiantly gut it out so many times before in years past, because no NBA player can be fully healthy with this hellacious 82-game schedule, we question Rose's desire.

It's bullshit, it's dangerous and it needs to stop. This begins with Thibodeau and ends with the public pressure from the media and fans. Everyone is so impatient. It is November 26 and the Bulls have 67 -- sixty seven! -- games left before things start counting for real. I think Derrick could have taken another week off to rest his hamstring instead of trying to push it during a two week road trip. Anyone traveling on a plane that frequently is going to feel like shit anyway. Why does Thibodeau insist that Rose must play in these games that are ultimately meaningless?

When Rose was returning from his sprained ankles earlier this season, it seemed fairly obvious he did not want to play in Milwaukee. He did anyway, likely because of Thibs and the public pressure. He played poorly and said after the game he was only at 50 percent. Rose would miss a few more games before returning against Detroit and completely torching them for his best scoring effort since tearing his ACL.

It all happened again on Tuesday. There are no reason for Rose to play in that game. Zero. Yet, both Thibodeau and the public insist that Rose must be on the floor. A hamstring injury is healed in one week, they say. He needs to be out there for his team, they say.

It's bogus. When he has been healthy this season, like against the Cavs and against the Raptors, Rose has looked very good. His problem isn't an ability to push himself through pain. His problem is that he's always hurt. Part of the reason he's always hurt is because everyone demands he returns from these relatively minor but still consequential injuries. All of this while we're still in November.

This is how we get meaningless columns full of circumstantial bullshit about how Rose is the next Kerry Wood or Gale Sayers. This is how we get the all-out embarrassment that is Joe Cowley's Twitter account. This is how a city that once turned Rose into a unicorn now outrightly detests him.

Rose is far from perfect, but that's not the point. He isn't missing games because he's thinking about his son's graduation 16 years in the future, regardless of what he says. He's missing games because he has had ankle and hamstring injuries. The games he's missing do not matter. Do you know what does matter? The games in May and beyond, in the postseason. You may remember the postseason as the part of the schedule in which Derrick Rose has not played a full game since 2011. Shouldn't the entire point of this season be to get Rose ready for the playoffs?

We all spend so much time worrying about Rose "shaking off the rust" like Rose didn't already score 20 against Cleveland in three quarters, 24 against the Pistons and 20 against the Raptors. Rose has looked great this year ... when he's healthy. Why is he playing when he's not healthy? He wasn't on Tuesday but no one would listen.

This situation is ugly already and it's only going to get worse. It's going to get worse because Pau is amazing, Jimmy is a monster and a new-look bench has reinvigorated the second unit. Rose is standing in the way, and both Thibs and the public will demand he proves he's able to play through pain.

There will be a time when Rose will have to play through pain, but that time is not in November. It is literally six months from now.

This is my advice: be patient and shut up. Rose brings out the worst in people as is. Just let it go and keep perspective. Like Noah once said: