We've had to listen to the Derrick Rose return line since mid-March.
After being medically cleared to play toward the end of the 2012-13 NBA season, the Chicago Bulls' point guard, most recognizable star and former league MVP has worn nothing other than a suit to games this season, sitting on the bench while his teammates grind it out in every game.
At this point, lack of confidence is the only feasible reason why Rose has avoided suiting up so far this year.
Consider all the facts:
- Rose was medically cleared to play back in March (h/t ESPN), where he infamously stated that he wanted to be 110 percent before returning to the lineup.
- The Bulls have been dropping like flies this season, with Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng all missing time down the stretch of the regular and postseason. Hinrich and Deng haven't played yet against the Miami Heat.
- Rose continues to practice with, against and for the Bulls, and media personalities everywhere (including Heat writer Ira Winderman) don't understand what the show is about pre-game when Rose does drills and looks like he's prepared to start the game.
- The "brain trust" of those looking out for Rose's best interests include his brother Reggie and mentor B.J. Armstrong, a man who was passed over for the Bulls GM job in favor of John Paxson (great article about connecting the dots with Rose by Paul Ladewski at Sheridan Hoops).
- Chicago management has been back-and-forth on a Rose return this year, refusing to close the door (likely because he's physically ready) but maintaining a firm stance of negativity toward a return to save face with the fans.
Rose just doesn't feel comfortable returning to the court—end of story.
It's an ironic thing to say when you look at how productive he's been over the short time he's been in the NBA. Averaging 21.0 points, 6.8 assists and 3.8 assists in his NBA career, Rose has an MVP trophy and the label of Chicago's best player just four years (now five) out of college.
Let's flash back to April of 2012.
Rose is trying to help the Bulls overcome the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the opening round Eastern Conference series. He drives to the hoop, falls awkwardly on his knee and the rest is history—a torn ACL and a 9-12 month recovery window.
Then came the Adidas ads. While Rose was working toward making it back to Chicago's starting lineup before the end of the 2012-13 regular season, his marketing campaign was keeping fans captivated with the idea of Rose coming back just in time to help Chicago push for the NBA finals.
All the pieces added up to Rose doing just that, yet he never registered a minute before the postseason.
At that point, it probably would have been foolish to consider Rose probable for the postseason.
Injuries to key contributors, Nate Robinson throwing up on the bench and Chicago falling behind 1-2 in its series against the Heat have all given way to the possibility of a Rose return in Game 4, but at this point, those expectations are as hollow as they were before the playoffs started.
Now, all signs point to Rose's lack of confidence being the main culprit in keeping him dolled up on the bench instead of sweating it out in a war with Miami on the court.
As pointed out by Michael Rosenberg for Sports Illustrated, there's more than one factor at play in the Rose saga. If the digression between the franchise and the star wasn't enough, the expectations from the city itself are likely enough to heap pressure on Rose right now—on the bench, no less.
Like Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk puts it, why would Rose want to come back to be hounded by LeBron James?
Heck, even swimmer Ryan Lochte feels comfortable issuing a public show of faith for Rose's confidence, searching him out on Twitter:
In addition to that kind of challenge not going well the last time it was issued by Miami (see East finals, 2011), Rose hasn't stepped foot on the court in a meaningful game since going down at the United Center against the 76ers.
A tall task for any player, it's particularly damning for Rose because of the magnitude of the series the Bulls are facing, the team in question (Miami) and the fact that you can't just go from suit-wearer to starter and not skip a beat.
Throw in zero—yes, zero—confidence, and this decision is clearer than any explanation we've been given as to why a healthy Derrick Rose is comfortable enough to leave his sneakers in the locker room each night and let his teammates battle Miami alone.
Rose isn't coming back this season. It's unclear if he's going to lose fans, respect or some of his moxie from deciding to go this route, but when he does lace it up, it will be clear that Rose was pulling the wool over our eyes as to his true motivation for a potential return.
It was 110 percent confidence he wanted all along, and he doesn't have it yet.
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