Here in Chicago, sports talk has become consumed by snide disdain for star point guard Derrick Rose as he remains on the bench during the playoffs while the Bulls hobble on after an impressive if battering series against the Brooklyn Nets. Now that they're playing LeBron James and the Heat, I hear Bulls fans making openly hostile comments about Rose remaining on the injured list despite being "cleared to play."
My favorite overheard joke is that the Bulls are going to erect another statue outside the United Center, this one of Rose peering from the end of the bench in a suit.
Still I feel as though it's my duty to step in and offer some rational thinking on the matter. Here are three reasons the Bulls should not bring Rose back for the playoffs, even after an awesome Game 1 they stole from the Heat:
1) The Bulls are not going to win the championship this year. Ostensibly, the reason to have a franchise player like Rose is to bring a championship to your franchise. The Bulls have three impressive pieces in place: Rose, the relentless Joakim Noah, and coach Tom "Looks Like He Should Own a Steakhouse on Michigan Avenue Called 'Thibs'" Thibodeau.
The majority of the rest of the team is migraine list of terrible contracts and half-pieces that will never get them over the hump of Miami. No matter how exciting that Game 1 victory was—and I was rooting enthusiastically for the Bulls, as I will throughout—you are delusional if you think they can actually win that series. If the Bulls were up 100-62 in Game 4 on the verge of a sweep, I'd still put my money on LeBron to pull that series out of his ass. Bringing Rose back in a fit of delusion that he could somehow take over the series while Noah's feet are aching, Deng's recovering from the superflu, Carlos Boozer is playing Carlos Boozer defense, and Kirk Hinrich's calf is split in half would be the apex of basketball magical thinking.
2) Who says Rose will be anything close to 2010 form? You're talking about throwing a guy back on the court who hasn't played a real game for a year. This season the Bulls have learned how to play without him, for better or worse. Reintroducing him to the lineup in February might have worked, but plugging him back into the rotation on the fly could actually work against whatever weird offensive rhythm the Bulls have managed over the course of a season where they stayed in the hunt. Guys coming back from severe injuries have plenty of 3 for 15 games with 6 turnovers in their systems before they work out the rust. For Rose to have all of those rust games in high stakes playoff situations just seems cruel. You can hear sports radio collectively saying, "Hey, Derrick, why'd you play so shitty? We blame you for this loss."
3) Rose is going to get injured again, and it's just a matter of how soon. Playoff basketball is brutal. It moves faster, the defense is harder, the refs let more bruising contact go without a whistle. Recall that before his season-ending knee injury last year, Rose had a whole slew of health problems, from his back to his thigh. For Rose to be effective, he needs to go hard to the basket. What happens when he tears a calf muscle or snaps an ankle or shreds a meniscus? Then everyone's saying, "Why the hell did you risk playing him?"