People are arguing about whether Derrick Rose should return to the Bulls. This is definitely an intriguing debate with many different perspectives. I also have a perspective in that I tore my ACL and returned to play soccer just a few months later. Four months, to the day, after my surgery, I started my senior soccer campaign, where I was named all state. So, I know what it is like to come back from the injury (though not nearly at that level).
The thing that proves I’m crazier than Derrick Rose is I went back in the game with the torn ACL and then played the rest of the [soccer] season and all of basketball season (and led the team in scoring several games, so I wasn’t just a token throw away) before actually having the surgery. So, I can say with the utmost confidence that if it were me, I would be on the court playing. I’m not sure if that is the precise reason that Rose is so much better than me, but he certainly takes better care of himself and his body than I do.
Having said all of that, I think the point that is being missed is that Derrick Rose is not the player the Chicago Bulls should build around. Rose is a great player. He won league MVP a couple years ago. And similar to the argument made by Gary Washburn (while I like the logic and argument, his conclusion makes him seem like a lunatic), you can judge a players worth based on the bottom line improvement to the team.
With Derrick Rose at an MVP level, the Bulls were the #1 seed and lost decisively in the Conference Finals. This year without Derrick Rose playing at all, the fell to the #5 seed and look to lose decisively in the Conference Semifinals. That is a drop-off, to be sure, but nothing like the drop-off experienced when LeBron James left the Cavaliers (or joined the Heat). In the three years since James left the Cavs, they have averaged 21 wins. The three years before, they averaged over 57 wins and 2 playoff series won). Similarly, Miami’s average wins in full seasons has jumped from 35 with no playoff wins to 62 and made it to the NBA Finals in each of the previous two seasons (and are favorites to return).
I certainly think LeBron is a far better player than Derrick Rose, but even still, a great player like Rose should have more of an impact on the team on which he plays. I believe the reason he does not is because he’s on the wrong team. Many are making the analogy between Joakim Noah playing with plantar fasciitis, Luol Deng trying to play after a Spinal Tap, and 5’9″ Nate Robinson playing with severe flu. Kirk Hinrich finished the game where he severely bruised his left calf. This team oozes toughness.
Further, when the Bulls were playing their best, they still rarely won because Derrick Rose was leading them on a scoring-fest. They won games because their defense is among the best in the league. Tom Thibodeau has the best defensive system in the league and he gets the team to buy into it like no other team in the league does. Derrick Rose is not known as a defensive stalwart, even when at peak health.
Derrick Rose is a great player. When he plays, the Bulls are undoubtedly a better team, but I would challenge you to name any great player in any sport, who led his team to a championship on a team where the style of the team did not also reflect his personal style. The Showtime Lakers, the Jordan Bulls, the smart Celtics (whether the iteration involving Larry Bird or Bill Russell), and the system Spurs are all examples of the style of the best player being the style of the team. Rose’s place on the Bulls is more like Iverson’s place on the 76ers team.
It may have taken this situation for the Bulls to accept it, but the fact is that as long as they are a team coached by Tom Thibodeau, they will not win a championship with Derrick Rose as their central player. The reason they give teams an approximately equal amount of fits, whether Rose is playing or sitting is because the team is not built around Rose’s tremendous skill set. They spend most of their time concentrating on that side of the court where Rose is less at home (defense).
I believe that whether or not Rose comes back this year is almost inconsequential. What really matters and should really be understood is that the team is built around toughness and defense. Rose gives both a good college try, but neither would be his forte. In a sport, where one player makes such a profound difference, the best chance at winning a championship is when you build around your best player, not outside of him. The Bulls are a very good team that may just be a piece or two away from a championship, but that piece is not Derrick Rose. At the same time, I think Rose could be a championship piece; he just isn’t for this Bulls team.