No, the source of my worry is one Derrick Martell Rose. Specifically, Derrick Martell Rose's left knee.
With reports surfacing that Rose has started cutting in workouts, a major milestone in his rehab process, and Bill Simmons positing in his column from Friday that he expects Rose to be back prior to the All-Star Break in February — based almost solely on Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who tore his ACL in January and was back by September — Rose's return is becoming a major topic of discussion.
There are a few factors in play here. The first, and most obvious, is Rose's health. His return will depend on when his knee is ready to go. Very simple. However, another consideration is how the Bulls' season is going with out him. If the Bulls continue to win enough games to stay in the playoff hunt and continue to fight good teams down to the finish, Rose and/or Bulls' management will start feeling pressure to get Rose back on the court as soon as possible. Jerry Reinsdorf has been emphatic in that Rose absolutely will not come back until he's fully healthy, but if Rose starts lobbying for a return, it's going to be hard to say no, even if medical professionals aren't sure he's ready.
Then again, if the Bulls start getting injured, especially Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, they could go crashing down to the lottery in a hurry. And really, that's not necessarily a bad thing. There would be little to no pressure on Derrick to rush his comeback, and the Bulls could choose to hold him out for the duration of the season if they wanted, and the Bulls would get a solid draft pick to help reclaim some of the depth they jettisoned this summer.
Here's my issue with the whole thing: the Bulls are setting themselves up for the scenario outlined above, in which the team's relative success starts putting pressure on everyone involved to get Derrick back on the court. Chicago already wants him back ASAP; between the Adidas commercials and the fact that Rose is probably the most beloved athlete in Chicago, his rehab is being monitored more closely than a vigilante would monitor a police scanner. And while I would also like to see him back sooner rather than later, I just can't get past thinking about him getting hurt again because he came back too soon.
During the regular season last year, we learned that Derrick Rose was not invincible. He suffered his first significant injuries and missed 27 games. But he came back in time for the playoffs, so we assumed that the worst was behind us.
You know what came next.
I, for some reason, had previously just assumed that Derrick wouldn't ever be seriously injured. Sure, I always kind of held my breath every time he hit the deck after a foray into the lane — which happened a lot — but he always bounced back up, so it never seemed like he was in any real danger.
What made it worse, actually, was suffering a false alarm earlier in the season. On March 1st, the Bulls headed to San Antonio, where they would beat the San Antonio Spurs 96-89. It was something of a signature win at the time, and watching Rose shred the Spurs' defense down the stretch was a thing of beauty. But earlier in the game, Rose went for a loose ball along the sideline and went down holding his knee — HOLDING ONTO HIS KNEE…HOLDING ONTO HIS KNEE AND DOWN (Thank you, Adidas, for embedding those words so deep in my brain I can't even hope to get them out again). It turned out that he had just banged knees during the scrum and our mini-nightmare was soon over.
I am not attempting to imply that I know anything at all about when Derrick Rose should come back this year, or if he should come back at all. But it's not as cut-and-dry as some might like it to be. He could come back anywhere from mid-January to April and I wouldn't be surprised. I'll also be thrilled to have him back, whenever that is.
But I'll also be terrified that we'll be plunged back into a waking nightmare once more.
(Sorry, that came out darker than I intended it. Here's something to make up for that.)
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