Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Doubting Rose the Wrong Move at This Point

Is this the point it has gotten to? Really? Now, after all we've been through, we're going to question Derrick Rose's toughness? I find it ridiculous that after it leaked that he was medically cleared to play by doctors, we not only instantly expected him to be able to play, but then started to murmur - after he mentioned that he would play when he was comfortable dunking off his left foot (translation - mentally ready) - that maybe he was milking this whole affair. Derrick had fallen into the trap of playing to his endorsement companies, listening to his handlers, etc, and didn't feel that it was in his best interests to come back. It's all garbage.

It's hard to pinpoint where all this comes from but I personally feel that it has a large part to do with Reggie Rose. Had his brother not come out criticisizing the team, saying that Derrick didn't want to come back under these circumstances with the Bulls failing to make moves at the trade deadline and whatnot, I really don't think that there would have been a certain clamoring, whether locally or nationally, that maybe Derrick isn't the tough/humble player/man that we thought he was. It doesn't matter that what Reggie said was illogical and downright stupid, considering that the Bulls are maxed at the cap and structured their current roster for the most part with cheap 1 year deals AFTER Rose went down. Nor does it matter that the Bulls didn't design this team to win this year because it is becoming increasingly clear they didn't feel they could compete at this level all year without Rose. The Bulls didn't construct a team to win now with Rose - at least in Reggie's eyes - because they didn't feel they could without Rose, and because they didn't have the financial flexibility to do so. Reggie's statement just could not have come at a worse time, with a toxic combination of frustration and eagerness for any Derrick Rose news when the Reggie Rose story broke.

Who are we to question Rose?
But none of that logic can take back the negativity that Reggie has all of a sudden passed on to Derrick. Now, his brother has to face scrutiny about his mental and physical toughness unlike any he's ever faced. Derrick may be physically ready in the capacity that his knee is healthy to play, but does that mean he's in game shape or physically ready to take a beating every game like he used to? And doesn't it make sense that someone who's entire game is prefaced upon his ability to drive and cut would be especially cautious and nervous (if he even is that to begin with) about returning, especially considering his lack of major injury history to begin with?

Look, I understand. We all want Rose back. At the bottom of all of this is frustration, to be sure. Bulls fans, as Bill Simmons says, love Derrick Rose more than any other NBA team loves their star. He has been the biggest face of this franchise since MJ left and he has led the resurrection of the team back to the top of the NBA standings. More than that, he's downright fun to watch. But parse through that and you'll realize that some of the biggest things we loved about him, and subsequently thus made watching him that much more enjoyable, were his humility, his toughness, his competitive drive, his work ethic, his love for his teammates, his love for the Bulls, and his love for the city of Chicago. I wrote once that seeing Derrick go down was like watching a family member get hurt. His development over the past few years has meant that much.

So now, after a prolonged layoff because of a serious injury, those facets of his personality and makeup are gone? He's not humble, tough, or hard working? He doesn't love his teammates, the Bulls, or his city? That's all hogwash. I bet if you asked any one of his teammates in that locker room and they'd tell you the same thing. Professional athletes have a different understanding of serious injury and what it takes to return. Combine that with the respect they already have for their best player, and I would be willing to bet that there is unanimous support for him in the locker room. I don't believe any of the nonsense from the sports radio pundits that they've heard from their "sources" that some teammates are irritated. Give me a break - this situation just goes to show how desperate modern journalists get in the "sources say" era to be the first to break news. After all he's worked for, he's not only earned his teammates' respect, but ours. He deserves the benefit of the doubt - if there's even any doubt to begin with.

And really, I don't understand the angst to begin with. I'm not one to hold him off because this season "doesn't matter," but that does bring up a semi-valid point. Why force Rose to rush back? What's the reason? Sure, we can make a run at Miami and probably lose, but knowing Tom Thibodeau and Rose, we make it a battle. For me, in all reality, the reason we want him to rush back is selfishness. We like watching him play, and helping the Bulls win, so when we hear that he's physically ready we instantly step into his shoes and assume he should play. We can all pretend that we're professional athletes, or that we know what it's like as one to sustain a bad knee injury, but we should all take a step back and gain some perspective. This is a kid that has never stopped working. He's never given any indication that there are other interests at stake as to why he would wait to come back. All we've heard from him is how hard he's working, how much he wants to be back, but won't until he's 110% healthy, regardless if that is physical condition or mental confidence and comfort. Everything else, from all the external so-called "experts," is either hearsay, presupposition, or both.

Rose should return only when he's ready
I want Derrick to come back. I really, really, do. But in no way, shape, or form would I ever want an athlete who isn't mentally ready to return from his own injury to come back. The results would be disastrous and patently unfair to Derrick. A player like him, already under enormous pressure, needs to mentally be able to play every game at the highest level, just like all other elite athletes. Rose knows his body better than all of us. When he met the media today he mentioned how right now it was about being confident in himself again and most importantly, feeling normal. That's something that he probably hasn't experienced yet, but at the same time is crucial to his game. He should be allowed to get to that level at his own pace because feeling normal turns into feeling comfortable, which ultimately leads to him playing on the level we all remember. That's when the Bulls start winning games at a prolific pace again, and I think that we can all be on board with that. He showed last year that he has the ability and toughness to fight through aches, pains, and even serious injuries. To assume that he's not tough or that he's mentally weak because he's not returning the instant the doctor says that he's cleared to play in games is ridiculous.

And more than that, this is a player we care about. He's special to Chicago Bulls fans and basketball fans in general. Are we really ready to deal with jeopardizing Rose's career by piling on all of this external pressure to play when he isn't ready? I hope that we as Bulls fans can recognize what he's meant to our city, to our team, and to our fan base since his arrival. Go watch some of his highlights to remember the intensity, toughness, competitive drive, and fire that he played with. You'll start to remember how much you enjoyed his game, his demeanor, and the old-school way he went about the game. I for one don't want to risk losing that special talent for good. I trust that Derrick, who has delivered on so many occasions, will deliver again. When he does that, should be, is, and hopefully will always be, up to him.