Derrick Rose might or might not come back to play this season but, let’s be honest, either way the Bulls’ prospects for the regular season aren’t going to be materially different and, in any event, they certainly aren’t going to win the NBA Championship. And my superattenuated ear hears Rose saying that he won’t return until he’s “110%” to infer that the Bulls don’t know whether or not they will get him back this season. The Bulls are in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference, which is where they were projected to be. They are within 3.5 games of the Knicks, which could mean playing at home through the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Bulls have been getting great contributions from Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson who when on the court together are greater than the sum of their parts. Robinson in his last 7 games has averaged 15 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals to help lead the team. Over the same span of games Joakim Noah has added 8 points and 12 rebounds.
The defense has really contributed to the success of the Bulls. They are 3rd in the league in Points Allowed. This kind of consistent, gritty defense is a staple of all Tom Thibodeau teams dating back to his days as Assistant Coach with Boston where he made a name for himself as a defensive specialist.
The Rose situation is a tough speculative sport in its own right. Were he to return, what would be his net contribution to the team’s current productivity? Rose doesn’t want to come back if he doesn’t think the team can compete, so the way team plays coming out of the All-Star break this weekend in Houston will be a big factor in Rose’s decision whether or not to return. If Rose sees a clear road to the Eastern Conference Finals then he’ll be back; he’s laser focused on championship performance and results.
Look for Rose to come back either against Brooklyn on April 4th, or against the Knicks on April 11th. Both games are on national television and would draw huge ratings for the NBA. The Bulls final three games open on a Sunday afternoon against the Heat. The NBA likes Chicago winning and the city relishes having a local guy carrying the team. Derrick Rose is a great player, but it does help to have the affection of the commissioner. His supporting cast is going to have to show up when it returns or Rose won’t see a reason to risk further injury for a lost cause.