Welcome back, Derrick

With Derrick Rose’s return to action just around the corner, Sam Smith of Bulls.com explains why waiting until this coming season to get back on the court was the right decision.

Does Chicago owe Derrick Rose an apology?

Well, not everyone. But as Rose makes his first local public appearance this summer Sunday at the United Center in an adidas sponsored event, the fog hanging over the lakefront is that whispering campaign about Rose last season and that he did not want to play.

I’d say most people weren’t quite sure of the situation given there are few people around who slam dunk backward and then have major knee surgery. But with rumors and media sourced reports that Rose was “cleared” for action, that he was practicing with the team and looking good and comments from his brother about the makeup of the team, some in the media and in the community suggested Rose could have played and should have played and was letting his team and the city down.

Now, I should make clear from early in the season I was on the side of those who felt Rose was better off not playing at all last season, which is what happened in the end.

Though as several Bulls played through injuries and somehow comparisons were made to hockey Blackhawks playing with injuries despite wearing virtual body armor and few being required to jump, there grew a chorus suggesting everything from Rose selling out his team to not caring.

There remains in the American culture this fantasy seemingly from movie fiction of playing hurt. You know the clichés, gutting it out, going to war, gut check.

The Bulls had a terrific late season run with illnesses and injuries sweeping the team, and eventually Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich also succumbed. But no one endured anything near as serious as Rose did.

I should add Rose never once seemed to me upset by the occasional censures and denunciations. I talked with him a few times about it and always found myself more upset than he was.

I believe most of this is past given the Bulls open training camp Friday and the reports about Rose’s recovery have been positive and he said he plans to play in the first exhibition game in less than two weeks.

I’m still of the belief Rose did the right thing, and feel even more so watching players trying to return from catastrophic injuries, like Rose had.

Most prominent of late is NFL Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. He also had anterior cruciate surgery, and his return has been a major issue. He came back about nine months after surgery, which is about the time many were saying Rose would or should return last season. That would have been in late February.

But Griffin has been a shadow of the player he was before his injury, and now segments in the media and public in Washington have been saying he should be benched for the backup quarterback given his erratic production.

Though baseball’s Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees is much older, he had a less serious surgery on his ankle. He stayed out nine months and hit a home run in his return. But he apparently overcompensated and suffered various other injuries and was eventually shut down for the season this month after playing irregularly.

There were some NBA players who returned from similar injuries, like Ricky Rubio of Minnesota and Iman Shumpert of the Knicks. Both struggled on and off with erratic play, more so Rubio. But neither was a player counted on to do so much for his team, like Rose.

Plus, had Rose returned in March, when most reports indicated it was possible, he likely would have been on a minutes limitation the rest of the season. And then as Bulls players got hurt, would the Bulls and Rose have fallen into the trap of trying to do more to help the team?

If you’ll check, no member of the Bulls organization on the record ever said Rose was able to play. There was a report he was cleared, though the sentence never seemed to be completed. Anytime you are cleared by a doctor, whether in sports or your own life, it’s with the understanding that you are cleared as long as you aren’t experiencing any issues.

Rose constantly told the team he never fully felt right.

Some suggested that’s natural after such serious surgery and you play your way through that. They apparently told that to Griffin and Jeter as well. I never heard one NBA player say Rose should have been playing. They understand about not feeling right and the effects of major reconstructive surgery.

It’s also not to say Rose was the only great player this ever has happened to. In fact, most great NBA stars have gone through something similar in their careers when fans and media questioned them.

Kobe Bryant, of course, was scheduled for trial on a sexual assault charge. Magic Johnson, barely over 20, was under siege for supposedly getting his coach fired. Bill Russell was constantly in bitter and angry disputes with fans and the community which had the Celtics struggling for attendance even as they won titles. Wilt Chamberlain supposedly asked out of the last game of the 1969 Finals under murky circumstances, and then his coach refused to put him back in as the Lakers came close and lost. Scottie Pippen had his famous walkout in the 1994 playoffs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar demanded out of the Midwest; Isiah Thomas and the Pistons had their walkout and Thomas was effectively banned from the 1992 Dream Team; Oscar Robertson was basically run out of Cincinnati by fans and media as supposedly selfish. And LeBron James keeps taking his talents somewhere.

Like those stars, Rose will survive his controversy as well.

Though we’ll all be holding our breaths with every Rose step, at least for a few months, there seems plenty of optimism coming from Rose and the Bulls this season with less than two weeks before we all finally see him in NBA competition, albeit exhibition until late October.

No one owes Rose an apology. It’s all part of the discussion and debate of the sports business. He actually always understood that very well.

Patience is very difficult, even in this instant Twitter, Facebook and gotcha society these days. More than 400 years ago, William Shakespeare wrote, “How poor are they that have not patience. What wound did ever heal but by degrees.”

That comes from Othello, who also might have done better to have taken some time off to work on his jump shot, or at least his jousting, rather than acting precipitously.

Welcome back, Derrick.


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