By Dave Wischnowsky-
(CBS) The Chicago Bulls are playing a playoff game tonight.
Derrick Rose is not.
So, tell me Bulls fans, how does that make you feel?
I know how ChicagoNow blogger Steve Huisel thinks Rose’s extended on-court absence makes fans feel. On March 27 he wrote, “If you were to ask a Chicago sports fan who’s on their Mt Rushmore of hated Chicago athletes, the most common responses would include Jay Cutler, Carlos Boozer and Alfonso Soriano. All three players entered this city with great promise and ‘love’ from the fans, but currently walk around with a negative connotation. If Derrick Rose isn’t careful, he might be the fourth head to this dubious ‘Mt Rushmore.’”
I know how Rose sitting out makes my buddy Dan feel. On Tuesday, he texted, “The people who actually went to medical school are saying he needs to play. Ask Iverson the difference between games and practice.”
And I know how seeing Rose wearing a suit instead of a uniform makes my Twitter friend Scott feel. On Wednesday he wrote, “If the Bulls win this series and play MIA – 3 months after (Rose) was medically cleared (to practice) – and he’s not out there, I have a prob w/ that.”
Scott went so far as to add that if the Bulls do advance past the Nets to face Miami and “next month New Orleans offered Eric Gordon and two [first round picks for Rose] … I’d consider it.”
I wouldn’t. But I do understand many Bulls fans’ frustration. This Sunday will mark one calendar year since Rose crumpled onto the court with a torn ACL during the first round of the 2012 NBA playoffs. He was given a recovery timetable of 8-12 months and started taking full contact in practice on Jan. 31. On March 9, he was cleared by doctors to return to games, but has not.
This week, Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander wrote how, “Rose has admitted he just doesn’t ‘feel’ right yet. He has acknowledged his reluctance to play is mental, not physical.”
And it’s that distinction that has rankled much of the Bulls fan base, with concerns emerging throughout the city that the hometown-kid-turned-MVP is losing his popularity and his marketability. On Tuesday, in a piece for SBNation, writer Ricky O’Donnell commented how, “It’s wild that it’s gotten to this point, and very unfortunate. Rose saw the backlash against LeBron for ‘The Decision’ and vowed to never let it happen to him. Well, it has.”
But has it really?
Is Derrick Rose truly Public Enemy No. 1 among Chicago Bulls fans, or is he just Public Enemy Right Now?
My vote is for the latter.
Last spring in a GQ cover story not long before he was injured, Rose acknowledged how aware he is of the mistakes that LeBron made when he left the Cavaliers for Miami. Rose said, “It happened overnight with him, and it was sad to see somebody go through that. It would hurt anyone to see your hometown turn on you like that.”
When then asked whether he worries that he might get “Lebron’d” himself someday, the Bulls superstar responded: “I won’t ever put myself in a bad position so that people can say bad things about me.”
Personally, I’m OK with Rose sitting out this entire season. My take is that he’s far too young, far too valuable and has far too bright of a future to push him to come back for just a handful of games, even if the doctors say he can go. My preference would have been for the Bulls to have shut Rose down long ago to remove the drama surrounding his return and allow him to focus fully on getting himself prepared for 2013-14.
Nevertheless, since the Bulls didn’t do that and Rose has opted not to play, he has indeed put himself in a position where people can say bad things about him.
But unlike LeBron, the guy hasn’t bolted the South Side for South Beach. He’s still here in Chicago, even if he’s yet to play this season. And while many fans may be angry right now, my guess is that all will be forgiven the moment Rose does retake the court.
Whether that was to happen tonight, or not until next fall.
But whenever it does, I’ll be stunned if Rose is showered with boos instead of cheers. Because when he finally plays again, that’s the moment he stops being Public Enemy No. 1.
And starts just being No. 1 again.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.