No, the biggest story is the same story that's dominated the headlines in Chicago all year—when is Derrick Rose going to return to the Bulls' starting lineup?
"[Rose is] most likely out, but you never know. The playoffs are stretched out too, so you have to factor that in too. So, who knows another week from now where he is so, you always want to have that possibility open,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Having sustained an injury in last year's playoffs, the Bulls' star guard is yet to return to the NBA this season. Part of that has been the natural healing that was required from his ACL tear, whilst part of that is also thought to be psychological, with Rose mentally not ready to return to the court despite being cleared by doctors over a month ago.
That's left many people left wondering why Rose isn't returning—especially after seeing the Bulls be outgunned by a dominant Brooklyn Nets side in Game 1.
Bell Reiter at Fox Sports said after the loss:
[The nature of Brooklyn loss] pales compared with the widening void Rose’s absence—and the nature of it—has produced.
This is not to say Rose should or should not play. It is to say that Rose, who was officially cleared March 9 but has remained sidelined because of some nebulously self-defined waiting game only he seems to understand, owes his team, his fans and his game something.
It is the playoffs, Derrick. Give us minutes or give us answers.
Few would echo similar sentiments if asked of their opinion.
However, the question must be asked as to why Rose should come back. Is it because he owes his team something to return from injury now? Is it because he should feel obligated to take the court the very second he can move and run once more?
Is it because the Bulls' playoffs hopes are doomed without their star guard?
The answer is perhaps a combination of all of that mentioned above, yet the sober reality is that it will hardly matter what decision Rose makes in the postseason.
Regardless of whether he does or doesn't come back—the question that everyone seems to be asking—the answer is that it won't matter. The damage for the Bulls has already been done in the regular season, partly as a result of Rose's absence, but largely thanks to poor decisions from the management and front office in Chicago.
The Bulls are an overworked team that has struggled to play all season as a result. Thibodeau hasn't been able to or hasn't wanted to rotate the squad well and give his star players good rest, and that will be what defines their postseason performances this year.
Not Rose. He isn't overplayed at all.
We've seen all season how many minutes the Bulls' players have chalked up this year, and in comparison to other stars around the league, it's simply ridiculous.
Over the course of an 82-game season, that excessive playing time will definitely catch up with players, and the Bulls are experiencing that first-hand now.
|Luol Deng, CHI||75||75||38.7|
|Joakim Noah, CHI||66||64||36.8|
|Carlos Boozer, CHI||79||79||32.2|
|Jimmy Butler, CHI||82||20||26.0|
|Nate Robinson, CHI||82||23||25.4|
For context, Deng finished first in the league for minutes per game. Noah came in 15th.
Across the league, only one other team had more than one player inside the top 15 for average minutes per game—the Portland Trail Blazers who, unsurprisingly, finished the season with a 13-game losing streak and just two wins in the final 17 games.
One of which, came against the Bulls, in Chicago, by 10 points.
It's little wonder that Chicago is struggling to keep up with the rest of the league now heading into the playoffs. They've worked incredibly hard just to make it to the postseason and Thibodeau hasn't rested his stars well enough for them to be able to keep pace.
You can't play 40-plus minutes in games and expect to be ready for the playoffs—it just isn't going to happen, and Chicago is seeing that firsthand now.
They're breaking down with injuries every game it seems, with the likes of Noah and Kirk Hinrich both likely to carry injuries into Game 2. And that's without even considering how Luol Deng must be feeling, with his legs definitely running out of steam as well.
The Bulls are simply exhausted and they are falling apart.
Thus the decision about whether they should bring back Rose or not now doesn't really matter. It isn't the question that needs to be asked and it shouldn't be the focus of the postseason for Chicago.
For even if they do manage to somehow get past the Nets, the Bulls are going to find themselves in a dire situation. Deng will be exhausted—as will Robinson and Hinrich from the work they've had to do on Williams—and Noah will be limited in the frontcourt due to his ongoing ailments and injuries.
Bringing your superstar back only to bow out in the second round and potentially jeopardizing his career (and the future of the franchise) isn't the right move.
If they were healthy, then the question about Rose's return is valid. But the Bulls aren't even close to their best right now, and forcing Rose to return only to not win a championship isn't worth it—not in the short-term and not in the long-term.
The question about Rose's return shouldn't even be asked right now. The real question that must be asked is as to how they got to this point of being bereft of energy and creativity, for it is that that will see the Bulls fall short in the postseason this year—not the absence of their star point guard.
The front office failed this year in getting decent talent on the bench. Thibodeau failed in ensuring that what he does have on the bench is being utilized well and that his stars have had adequate rest going to into the playoffs. The damage–as it is—has already been done for Chicago well before they took the court against Brooklyn in Game 1 and thus it won't matter one iota what Rose does.
It could only get worse if Rose comes back, not better.
His return would simply be too little too late for Chicago, and it could only get even worse for Rose and the franchise if they pushed him back into action before he was ready.
It's not worth rushing him back just to lose the Championship.
Watching him return and playing 15-20 minutes isn't going to propel the Bulls past the Nets, who outgunned Chicago in every aspect in Game 1, and will likely do throughout the rest of the series.
The problems the Bulls have aren't the absence of one player, but the fact that their entire team is barely holding itself upright. Rose's absence might have been the catalyst for that, but it's been the decisions of the front office and Thibodeau that have brought that into fruition.
Rose's possible return would be nothing but a minor headline when Brooklyn run the Bulls out of the playoffs in the opening round. The only time it would make a major headline is if something bad happened to Rose, which may well happen if Chicago bring him back before he's ready to return.
Taking the court now would simply be too little too late for the Bulls.
The damage, it seems, was simply out of his control.
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