Thursday, March 14, 2013

Derrick Rose’s Long-Term Health Top Priority: Don’t Rush It

Maybe the best thing is to realize what can happen to Derrick Rose. Consider this: He returns, suffers a setback in his left knee and misses action next season, not able to save the Chicago Bulls. As much as anything, he is missed greatly by a city that adores Rose more than any other player.

For now, I genuinely believe that he needs to continue to rest and rehab. It’s not what the fans want. It’s what Rose wants. If he feels the time is right to make a return for the first time since suffering a season-ending injury, then he can finally play his first game of the 2012-13 season. There’s been something of an adjustment for the Bulls this season — players had to calibrate their games in the prolonged absence of the star point guard. The injury to Rose left Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau with no choice but to make major adjustments and rely on Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer.

The length of Rose’s delay, as well as the rash of injuries to Bulls’ players, forces Deng and Boozer to score at will for much of the season. The Bulls talent level is diminished, but as we know, Boozer and Deng are important offensively. Without Rose, the Bulls are average. With Rose, the Bulls can meet the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. The majority of Chicagoans are growing antsy and don’t realize that rushing him can jeopardize the superstar guard’s career.

Rose said he’s not fully healthy and would be very limited by the injury, most likely not returning this season, an absence that has fans worrying and begging for him to play before the season ends. Yet in rehabbing and missing nearly the entire season, he’s become the son of Chicago, just as likable as Michael Jordan was during his time spent in the Windy City. The comeback, after all, is not smart and he won’t be helping himself by rushing back.

Therefore, returning too soon and re-injuring himself as the team is not favored in the Eastern Conference this season, with or without Rose, is a no-win situation. He’s mostly the superstar of the Second City, but unlike fans who refuse to wait patiently and until he fully recovers after having knee surgery, Rose knows what’s best for him. It’s clear he’s not comfortable and won’t likely play on Friday, as most anticipated and yearns for his comeback.

Rose, for one, is thinking long-term priority over titles at the moment on team that his services are needed desperately and he certainly is capable of carrying the Bulls, a responsible and skilled player who will embrace his role as the top-scorer, if not one of the best point guards in the league. There’s no timetable set for his return, but he’s getting healthier, and the worst that can happen is that he’s rushed back too soon. Now he just needs to take precautionary actions, and not worry about satisfying an impatient and crotchety group of Chicago fans.

If he came back today, he could inflict more pain, and maybe, just maybe, his surgically repaired knee is not in good condition, even when he’s making progress in his recovery. Then he’s mentally and physically not quite set to play, but when he’s fit, he will return. Since no one else seems inclined to say it, well, then, I will say it. Reality is Rose, who puts the Bulls in good position to win a championship, is not 100 percent — a notion that he’s still overcoming a severe injury.

There is no other team in basketball that misses its star player more. Rose, on the other hand, is far more concerned about the organization long-term, and by trusting him, he’s surely thinking with good sense. It could be to the Bulls disadvantage if he weakens other muscles and bones in his body or even re-injures his knee, which is likely to happen if he’s not careful.

The fastest path, after all, for a sudden return, is to work hard and regain full strength. And yet, every time Rose is expected to return, or tries to save the Bulls season, it’s uncertain as to whether he will be bothered by any remaining effects from his left knee. Realizing that Rose had surgery to repair a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on May 12, he still has no return date, and by stating that he doesn’t, it would be nice for the loyal fans to respect Rose’s wishes.

So rushing for him to deliver and make a bigger statement in the Eastern Conference is not very smart among fans, teammates and coaches. If he’s not ready, why allow him to play during his rehabilitation and risk further damage to his knee? If he’s not ready, why force him into the starting lineup, which is uncertain given the seriousness of Rose’s ACL tear? The doctors cleared Rose to play, but he won’t return until he can confidently dunk off his left foot, so fans will just have to wait.

For obvious reasons, the Bulls are confident he will return this season and hopes for a mid-March return, but folks in the city are emotionally attached to Chicago’s finest. The face of the city is Rose, and the Bulls are clearly the only pro franchise in town that fans show affection for, but the team won’t win an NBA championship without Rose’s good health. And perhaps more important to the Bulls’ long-term success is having Rose’s presence on the court.

It certainly wasn’t something he had in mind, but only he knows his body and knows the pain he feels. Rose ignores all the fans that try to push him to return right now. He insisted he’d give it more time before he makes a decision, working out on a stationary bike, with Bulls trainer Jeff Tanaka standing by him in the training room. The humble star just needs to gain the proper strength.

With faith and patience, he’s not in a hurry to get back on the court and has taken it day-by-day, step-by-step, going by his own pace. Think about how much he endured since suffering an ACL injury on April 28 — when we celebrated arguably the top point guard in the league, watched him amaze our senses and saw a glimpse of a rising star.

Just think how much better the Bulls will become once he’s fully healthy.

Save him for when he’s really needed. Save him for long-term. In the long run, it might pay off.