Having LeBron James on your team doesn’t guarantee you an automatic victory, as evidenced by the Chicago Bulls stealing game one of the Eastern Conference semifinals from the Miami Heat. Similarly, having Derrick Rose on your team won’t guarantee you a win either.
It’s been over a year since Rose tore up his knee in last year’s postseason. Yet, the Bulls have managed the entire season without him and are in just as good of a position right now compared to if he were in the lineup. Cleared by doctors to play two months ago, the lingering question remains: Why hasn’t he stepped on the court yet?
In sports, we’re constantly reminded of the heroism that comes with playing injured. Images of a hobbling Willis Reed walking onto the court with a torn thigh muscle in game seven or Michael Jordan scoring 38 points while playing with a 103 degree fever in the NBA Finals will forever remain etched in basketball lore. However, Rose and the Bulls have taken a completely different approach to handling their situation, and that is to sit and wait until Rose is completely ready.
Skeptics argue that Rose is being selfish and putting himself before the team. With teammates like Joakim Noah battling with plantar fasciitis and still willing the Bulls to the semis, Rose’s toughness and dedication has been questioned.
But what Rose is doing is the right choice not just for himself but also for the Bulls organization. For a player that is only 24 years old, there is no need for him to risk coming back from a career threatening-injury for a slim chance of defeating the Heat in a seven-game series. Let’s face it, the Bulls caught Miami by surprise in game one, but don’t count on that happening again.
With the year Adrian Peterson had still fresh in our minds, it’s difficult to remember the numerous instances where other athletes never recovered from this injury, such as Olympian Michael Redd, who had his career cut short because of the ACL tear he suffered.
The underlying issue here is not whether Rose is physically ready to play but whether he is mentally prepared to take the court. A player cannot be effective if he doesn’t trust his own knee to make sharp cuts and is repeatedly fearful of re-injury. The real topic of concern here with Rose is when he will finally be ready to get past that final mental hurdle; obviously, he still isn’t there yet.
Let’s not forget what the other Bulls players have done in the playoffs either. While the basketball world was shocked that the Bulls went into Miami with one day of rest after defeating the Nets in seven games, the Bulls, on the other hand, were not surprised at all. They expected to win.
Noah and Jimmy Butler combined for 34 points with 25 rebounds in game one, and Nate Robinson filled the role of the go-to guy for Chicago, scoring 27 points on 50 percent shooting. Chicago stuck to its game plan, and that is to play physically against an undersized Heat front court. They finished with a 46-32 advantage on the boards and outscored Miami 40-32 in the paint. If the Bulls continue to do this throughout the series, James and company will have to wait for ring number two until next year.
Miami has much more to worry about than wondering if Rose will come back and play in the series because in all likelihood, Rose probably will not see any action in this round of the playoffs or for the rest of the postseason. However, when he does come back, all eyes will be on him and his knee.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of The Daily Nexus.