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Let’s be Reasonable About Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose spoke publicly about his second surgery on the meniscus in his right knee for the first time on Monday, and it didn’t take long for the Chicago media to jump into attack mode. Hot takes are in abundance, and you can read the hottest of hot here from the Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley, here from the Tribune’s Steve Rosenbloom, and here from 670 The Score shock-jock Dan Bernstein.

Rose typically brings out only extreme opinions, much like politics and thoughts on LeBron James’s decision to take his talents to South Beach. Let’s first look at what Rose said before we get into why it’s important, via ESPN Chicago:

Rose spoke to reporters for the first time since his knee surgery Feb. 27. He said he’s “killing every workout” right now but refused to give a firm commitment to making it back within the Bulls’ previously announced four- to six-week estimate, despite several attempts by reporters.

“I’m not even thinking about that right now,” he said. “I’m thinking about getting the most out of every day.”

Rose was asked whether he has the power to say he’s not returning if something doesn’t feel right, as happened in 2013 during his ACL rehab.

“Yeah, but the way that I’m feeling right now, it’s a good chance that I’ll come back,” he said.

It’s worth pointing out that, right before that first quote regarding the estimated return schedule, Rose first said “Who cares?” Not exactly the kind of thing he should be saying if he wants to avoid being vilified by the Chicago media. Just ask Jay Cutler for his opinion on that.

But somewhere on the other end of the spectrum from the members of the media, there are the apologists (fanboys, as Bernstein incorrectly labels them) that whine and plead for you to stop piling on Rose, like that viral video of the kid crying and pleading for people to leave Britney Spears alone. Neither of these ends of the spectrum are a good look, people. One end makes you look like you’re insanely overreacting, and the other like an blind fool.

It’s true that Rose has done this to us before, so I understand the trepidation of fans and journalists that crave a hard answer on whether he’ll play this season. Back when Rose was recovering from his ACL surgery in 2013, Rose had this to say to USA Today:

“I’m not coming back until I’m 110%. Who knows when that can be? It can be within a couple of weeks. It could be next year. It could be any day. It could be any time. It’s just that I’m not coming back until I’m ready.”

That looks pretty similar to stuff he said Monday. Of course, he didn’t return at all that year, despite being cleared by doctors in March. But people conveniently forget that there were minor setbacks, too. He was experiencing pain and soreness in his knee. He was struggling to move laterally on defense. And while his teammates said he was dominating in practice, there’s a difference between practicing against Marco Belinelli and driving to the rim on Dwight Howard.

So let’s try to play this one down the middle and understand it for what it really is. First, Rose has never been good with the media. Seriously, the guy avoids talking to the media unless he absolutely has to. He’s not a very good speaker and it’s an uncomfortable situation for him. You have to be able to draw a line between what he says and what he means. I don’t think he means “who cares” what the Bulls’ management says about his return timeline, I think he means “who cares” about his opinion of the timeline itself. He has a point; injury timelines are ultimately irrelevant. He’ll play when he’s healthy.

Second, let’s also understand that Rose doesn’t like to be injured. Do you honestly believe that he doesn’t want to be on the court? That he’s okay with the proposition of missing a fourth consecutive postseason with knee injuries? I don’t buy it. I think he’s a guy that’s listening to his body and doing what’s best for him while working diligently to get back on the court. Somewhere along the way, that message gets broken and put back together that he’s some selfish coward that cares more about business meetings than he does about playing basketball.

It’s easy for us to sit in our comfy chairs and play doctor, theorizing about how long it should take Rose to return from this injury. We can try to dissect every sentence and every word to try to figure out just how motivated Rose is to return this season. If your takeaway from his comments are that he doesn’t want to play this season, then I think you’ve been listening to too much Chicago sports radio. Whether we like it or not, the only person who knows when Derrick Rose will be ready to play again is Derrick Rose. You may not like the way he couches that message, but it’s true either way.


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