In the Wake of the News
10:10 PM CST, February 12, 2013
All Chicago cares about reading next about Derrick Rose can be found only in a box score.
ROSE: 32 MINS, 11-17 FG, 4-5 FT, 27 PTS.
Everybody just wants Rose to produce statistics that are real, not interviews that are orchestrated. Nothing else in the Bulls season that hits the All-Star break Thursday really matters until Rose returns to the court to lead a playoff run — unless Rose doesn't return at all.
Rose oddly broached that possibility himself in a USA Today exclusive Tuesday that demanded everybody's attention because it raised questions that go beyond the stability of his knee — questions perhaps not even the Bulls can answer.
Questions about whether the humble hometown hero from Englewood has gotten lost somewhere amid a corporate marketing campaign packaging him. Questions about how much control the Bulls really have over a player they have invested $95 million in — or $165 million less than Adidas invested. Questions about who ultimately will decide when or if Rose plays this season: Team Rose or his NBA team?
"I'm not coming back until I'm 110 percent,'' Rose said. "Who knows when that can be? It can be within a couple of weeks. It could be next year. It could be any day. It could be any time. It's just that I'm not coming back until I'm ready.''
Asked to put a percentage on his health, the Bulls guard gave hope to everyone who had next season in the When-Will-D-Rose-Return? pool.
"Right now, probably in the high 80s," Rose said. "Far away. Far away."
Remember that nothing Rose has said or done during his rehabilitation has happened by accident. Adidas turned Rose's grueling recovery from knee surgery to repair a torn ACL into a slick six-part commercial for its pitch man titled "The Return.''
As compelling as every scene was to watch, it was heal-for-hire. In the episode that includes Rose returning to the United Center floor, he hugs his brother as a group of fans, brought in for the shoot, cheer. It made for a great commercial but blurred fantasy with reality enough to create cynicism about anything potentially affecting Rose's brand campaign.
You know, like Tuesday's strategic comments. When first reading Rose's quote Tuesday about "not coming back until I'm 110 percent'' I admit to wondering if those words would be part of an upcoming ad campaign, complete with Twitter hashtag: #110percent.
Rose seemingly putting the brakes on his comeback during the interview with a hand-picked, national publication was as calculated as everything else about his recovery. According to the Bulls, Rose's Los Angeles-based agency, the Wasserman Media Group, set up the sit-down. Same goes for interviews with two other national outlets that have yet to air or publish.
The Bulls say Rose is free to speak whenever he desires but have spent the season keeping him off-limits to local reporters who cover the team every day. The silent treatment represented a departure for an organization that did a tremendous, transparent job post-injury using team doctors to explain in detail the injury and rehabilitation plan. Suddenly, days before the NBA All-Star break when shoe companies typically have a captive audience, Adidas' $260 million man bared his soul to the national media. Coincidence?
"When he's comfortable and ready to talk," Tom Thibodeau said Tuesday, "he'll talk.''
Does it strike anybody else as odd that the Bulls can't compel Rose to speak publicly about what's next in his career but his agent can? B.J. Armstrong, who represents Rose, never had this much clout in the organization when he was an assistant general manager or a Jordanaire.
The broader issue involves how much influence Armstrong and others at Wasserman will wield in determining whether Rose returns in late February or March or waits to re-launch his career next fall. If you accept the premise that Rose raising the possibility that he might miss the entire season represents an choreographed move by his agency, then it's not hard to imagine Rose's handlers having input into when he returns. And if people who have Rose's financial interests (as well as millions of their own) in mind start meddling into what's best for the Bulls' basketball interests, that poses a problem.
The Bulls go into Wednesday night's game against the Celtics 30-21. In an East mired in mediocrity, the Bulls have every reason to believe they can make a run to the conference finals if Rose returns next month. His injury occurred April 28. Unless Rose suffered a setback, 10 full months typically represents a conservative timetable for an athlete of Rose's caliber to recover.
The Bulls maintain doctors ultimately will decide when that happens. Or maybe we should ask Wasserman?
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