Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose was one of the best players in the NBA until he tore his ACL in Game 1 of the team’s 2012 playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. Rose missed the next full season recovering and returned for the 2013-14 season, only to tear the meniscus in his right knee in November and sit out the rest of the season for a second time.
Fast-forward to the present day and the Bulls once again find themselves waiting for Rose to return from yet another injury to his right knee. While hope always remains optimistic in Chicago for a player of Rose’s caliber to return, and even more so for him to be able to play at a high level again, the truth is that Bulls fans, executives, players and even Rose himself have to wonder whether he’ll be anywhere close to an impact player as his career progresses.
During this most recent stretch of the team’s franchise player sitting on the sidelines, the Bulls have a 10-9 record and find themselves as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference standings. Holding onto the third seed would mean a date with the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, a team Chicago would likely be able to handle with relative ease. With Rose now back practicing, though not armed with a clear timetable for a return, there’s got to be excitement and a sense of relief in the Windy City right now.
On the other hand, the whole thought of his return should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the Bulls will indeed be better off with the fragile Rose in the lineup, but the question being asked around the league these days is how often can a guy that relies on his speed and quickness that much come back and still be effective?
It would be natural to assume that each time an athlete suffers an injury, especially the same type of injury, he’d likely diminish in his ability to perform at least a little bit, especially if we’re talking about a period of years. All it takes is one look at the statistics to see the difference.
Prior to being hurt in the 2012 playoffs, Rose was playing over 35 minutes a game during the regular season going all the way back to his rookie year. In the last two seasons, not only has he played just 56 regular season games, Rose has only averaged just over 31 minutes played. Just that statistic alone has to make one wonder if the 2011 MVP may be even more limited moving forward.
Aside from recognizing that Rose will likely never return to his top form for the rest of his career, it’s also important to consider the fact that Aaron Brooks has been a capable fill-in (aside from a few rough stretches), and that the team all around has seemed to have found a groove lately. Big men Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah have been solid, Jimmy Butler is an All-Star, Nikola Mirotic has found his game and even Tony Snell has stepped his game up. So the question remains, how effective will Rose be when he returns considering the chemistry the team has going now?
It’s tough to say, especially considering there are only a handful of games remaining in the season. It’ll take more than those few remaining games for Rose to really get in a rhythm and get him fully integrated back into the lineup. The team will have to do it gradually, and while that may serve the club well in the first round, if D-Rose isn’t ready by the second round, the Bulls may not have the luxury of allowing him to work his way back.
Of course this is all just speculation. What the Bulls and basketball fans should know is that having a great player come back always makes a difference, if only for the morale of the team and the fans. It also helps that Rose is a special player. Even him coming back at 75 percent of the player he used to be is an upgrade over Brooks, and perhaps the Bulls can make a run if things break right.
Even if Chicago doesn’t win a title this year, Rose still has a shot at being an NBA champion someday, continuing to lead his hometown team and proving that he can still do it despite his injury struggles. That is of course, assuming he can stay on the court and off the sidelines.