By Dave Wischnowsky-
(CBS) In Chicago, the bloom may be off the Rose.
But that doesn’t mean that Rose should get off the bench.
Nevertheless, with the Bulls a M*A*S*H unit – featuring calf pulls, plantar fasciitis, debilitating viruses and even spinal taps – many Chicagoans are indeed seeing a different kind of red as the team hobbles its way into tonight’s decisive Game 7 against the Nets in Brooklyn.
Following the short-handed Bulls’ narrow loss in Game 6 on Thursday, their frustration – or outrage – with star Derrick Rose has reached a fever pitch. Many can’t understand why the star point guard isn’t playing, now that it’s been one year and six days since he tore his ACL, surpassing his projected recovery timetable of 8-12 months.
On Jan. 31, Rose started taking full contact in practice and was cleared by doctors to return to games on March 9. He has not. And with fans now seeing Rose’s ailing teammates pouring their guts out – literally, in the case of the flu-stricken Nate Robinson – against the Nets, they’re up in arms about their point guard still sitting.
The situation has gotten so heated that CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm went so far as to tweet on Friday morning that, “D-Rose might be the softest player in the history of soft.” And, hey, if fans – and media members – really want to think that about Rose, they’re certainly entitled to do so.
But, personally, I think it’s ridiculous that Rose is the focal point of the Bulls in these playoffs in the first place. After all, the guy hasn’t played all season. So, why on Earth would he suddenly suit up and take the court to play now?
This isn’t a movie, you know. It’s reality. And whether Bulls fans like it or not, the only sensible place for Derrick Rose and his left knee to be during the 2013 playoffs is on the bench, not out on the basketball court.
Now, that’s not to say that I don’t understand why fans are frustrated with Rose’s absence. I do. Nor is it to say I don’t get their confusion about Rose’s reasons for not returning after doctors cleared him to do so. On Thursday, the Sitting Bull told TNT he still lacks “muscle memory,” which really only added more confusion.
From my viewpoint, Rose’s decision to stay on the sidelines is a complex mix of a recovering knee, a recovering psyche, an overbearing brother, a team that’s not yet built to beat the Heat, and a perhaps most of all hesitation to risk re-injury by returning for a small part of a season that’s highly unlikely to result in a championship.
Unlike many fans, I’ve long been A-OK with Rose sitting out this entire season. As I wrote last week, 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.
And, again, I’ll blame the Bulls for having not simply announced weeks ago that Rose has been shut down for the season allowing him the freedom to focus on 2013-14. That the team did not do that is what’s created this escalating firestorm surrounding Rose – and it very much makes me wonder about what drama might be going on between the team and Rose’s camp behind closed doors.
Regardless of all that, though, there’s just no sense or wisdom in Rose taking the floor for Game 7 against the Nets – or even Game 1 against the Heat, if the Bulls are to get that far.
If there ever truly was a time for Rose to have made his return this season, it isn’t now in an intense playoff battle – a situation that seems far more fraught with potential peril than potential glory.
I do believe that Derrick Rose has a lot more glory in his future.
But it’s simply too late to expect to see that this season. So my advice is, don’t.
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.