With the regular season winding down and the NBA playoffs looming, the question of whether or not Derrick Rose can return has evolved into whether the Chicago Bulls talented point guard should return at all this season.
The former MVP has yet to take the court this season while recovering from an ACL tear suffered in last year’s playoffs, even though he was cleared by Chicago team doctors to play in March.
Rose began participation in full-contact practices in January, and then revved up with full-court scrimmages in February, but his return to the court is still mired in doubt.
Without Rose, the 40-33 Bulls are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference, jostling with the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks for as high as the No. 4 position. The Bulls have managed to stand pat with the league’s fifth-best defensive rating and opponents shooting (44.1 percent).
Washington Wizards point guard John Wall defended the Bulls decision to sit Rose, and even said Rose should consider sitting out the rest of the season, citing his own struggle to return from a knee injury earlier this season.
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"I feel like [if] I were in the situation I wouldn't really [come back this year] because you don't have enough time to get into a rhythm. Then you get to the playoffs, D-Rose wouldn't be good for that team just playing 20 minutes a game,” Wall said to ESPN.
"It took me until March to really find my rhythm of getting into game shape," Wall said. "It took so long because the first month, month and a half I was playing 20 minutes. You play five minutes a quarter, you can't really find yourself, so it's very tough.”
While Wall may have a point about Rose finding his rhythm, Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau would assuredly welcome back his star point guard to bolster Chicago’s 30th ranked offense.
Thibodeau has consistently stated that he would not rush Rose back to the court. However, Rose's presence would relieve some of the defensive pressure on center Joakim Noah.
Earning his first All-Star nod this season, Noah leads the Bulls in rebounds (11.4), steals (1.2), and blocks (2.2), along with 12.7 points per game.
Noah and team-leading scorer Luol Deng are second and first on Chicago in minutes per game, respectively, and those numbers won’t decline with Rose’s presence. But a pesky Rose prowling the perimeter could provide a breather by limiting penetration.
Before his injury, the Bulls finished first in the Eastern Conference with a 50-16 record in 2012, and were viewed as the one team in the East capable of taking down LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
A testament to how well Chicago has played on without Rose is their 2-1 season record against Miami, including the 101-97 victory that derailed the Heat’s epic 27-game winning streak last week.
Sitting out for as long as he has might raise expectations for Rose, and he told the Chicago Sun-Times that he has learned much more from watching games this season.
A fully healed, confident, and more methodical Rose could spell trouble for Miami and the rest of the East during the playoffs.