Should Derrick Rose even bother coming back for the playoffs? After all, the chances of them advancing past the defending champion Miami Heat is slim to none. The Bulls might have difficulty adjusting to having Rose back in the line-up, he probably won’t be the same player anyway because of the knee and having not played at all this season and he might benefit from an additional 6 months of rehabilitation. While they might sound like adequate reasons, Derrick Rose must come back, not only for his team, but for himself.
He has been practicing since February 18 and he has been cleared to play by the medical staff since March 8, but for one reason or another he is resisting the urge to return. As a former league MVP and a Chicago Bull shooting guard, expectation levels can’t be much higher, and he needs to at least attempt to reach those heights for the sake of his team. He is the leader, and his teammates look to him for inspiration, but the longer he delays his return to the court, the greater chance he has of losing the locker room, and the support of the fans. No one likes to be labelled a softy, and no one wants to be led by a softy either.
He needs to return to overcome his lack of confidence. The possibility of re-injuring the knee and having his career cut short might have caused a few sleepless nights, but waiting another six months to play might place more doubt in his mind to the point that his confidence will need more rehab than his knee. Nothing works better for the mind than doing what you love most, and for any great athlete it is to compete against the best in the world, and to play in pressure situations i.e. the playoffs.
And speaking of the playoffs, the difference between the great players and the legends is their ability to overcome injury, sickness, and disappointment in the postseason. Derrick Rose would surely want to leave a legacy of legendary status. In fact, he might be best served by following the example of some of those legends of the game, namely Michael Jordan. He might not like it, but he will always be compared to the greatest Chicago Bull of all time. In order to justify the comparison, but more importantly, in order to help his team, he needs to get on the court.
In Jordan’s second season as a Chicago Bull he suffered a foot injury after just three games, and was advised to rehab the rest of the season. Much to the front office’s dismay he refused, playing the final 15 games and leading the Bulls into the playoffs where they faced the eventual champion Boston Celtics. They might have lost, but in game two of the series Jordan scored 63 points, a playoff record to this day. Fellow legend Larry Bird later explained; “I think it’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.”
There are others: Willis Reed taking the court in Game Seven of the 1970 NBA Finals despite a severe thigh muscle strain to lead the Knicks to their first title in franchise history. Result? Legend! Isiah Thomas scoring 43 points in Game Six of the 1988 NBA Finals despite suffering a sprained ankle in the third quarter. The Pistons would ultimately lose 103-102, but Lakers great Magic Johnson later explained; “I think he was just unconscious. I think he said, ‘Okay, I’m going to take this game over.’ I’ve seen him do that before. He was in his rhythm. When he starts skipping and hopping, that means he’s in his rhythm. That means he’s ready.” The following year, the Pistons got their championship.
And finally, the Bulls were the team to end the Heat’s 27 game winning streak, and they have an admirable 2-2 record against them this year. And that is without Rose in the line up. Stranger things have happened in the playoffs.
If Derrick Rose isn’t ready to step up now and lead his Bulls team, he might never be.