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redeyechicago.com

Bulls allowing Rose speculation to fester

Letting team doctors speak publicly would quiet questions about guard's toughness

David Haugh

In the Wake of the News

4:18 PM CST, March 9, 2013

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Is there a doctor in the house?

Chicago badly needs a dose of perspective regarding Derrick Rose, and the entire injury saga deserves the expert public diagnosis of a team physician.

Not partial bits of information painfully parceled out by anonymous team sources or unnamed teammates or agents with agendas or loudmouth brothers with good intentions and bad timing. Not easily dismissed daily updates from coach Tom Thibodeau, an NBA lifer trained to obfuscate when discussing injuries. Not from Rose himself, whose cryptic, conflicting comments only have reflected the inner struggle of a confused 24-year-old.

A strong, clear medical voice of reason is what is missing most amid the noise surrounding Rose. Plan another news conference, educate the masses and dazzle us with medical details of knee rehabilitation the way Bulls team doctor Brian Cole did so eloquently after surgery in May. Without proper context, the aura of mystery the Bulls have allowed to cloud Rose's recovery steadily created the perception of an imminent return that ultimately did Rose no favors and distracted a struggling team.

For the good of Rose's reputation, the Bulls need one of their doctors to explain that recovering from the psychological damage of a torn ACL can last longer than the physical rehabilitation. The Bulls need to allow a man who operates on athletes' knees for a living declare that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who returned nine months after surgery and had an MVP season, represents the exception and not the rule. I know those things. You know those things. But basketball fans everywhere would benefit from hearing a doctor reiterate them publicly. Transparency favors the Bulls, so why resist it?

This story begs for context as badly as a conclusion. Rose's fans, teammates and critics need to hear someone who knows the human body like Thibodeau knows defense say it's perfectly understandable for an athlete as elite as Rose to take the deliberate path back to stardom. As an organization, the Bulls need to stop treating the topic as if it were taboo. The Bulls haven't gotten in front of this story as much as let it trample them. Paging Dr. Cole ...

Every time the team lets Rose work out before games in full view of fans and TV cameras instead of in a private gym, it raises hopes in the city. He looks like the MVP we remember. The more we see Rose on the court, even defended by shadows, the less we understand why he can't drop 3-pointers in a No. 1 jersey yet.

The image of D-Rose being D-Rose with a basketball in his hands makes many of our imaginations run wild because we have so little to balance it. We cannot hear the voice of any medical expert reminding us every athlete recovers at his or her own pace because those voices have been muted. Meanwhile, passion shouts down prudence and patience inside many a Bulls fan's head.

The prolonged silence has produced a culture oversaturated with speculation. The latest turn came Friday, when ESPNChicago.com reported "Derrick Rose's doctor'' had cleared Rose to play, according to a team source. Even if a Bulls doctor sought to respond by pointing out Rose had been cleared to play basketball since returning to full-contact, 5-on-5 practice Feb. 18, he couldn't because of team policy. Injury spokesman Thibodeau was left to tell reporters before Friday's game that he trusts Rose "implicitly'' and repeat some other vague generalities everybody has heard regularly since Christmas.

Fair or not, the rest of Chicago debated Rose's toughness. As much goodwill as Rose has accrued in the city, the amount will diminish if he sits out the entire season amid reports he physically is able. That is not a label Rose, the Bulls or Adidas want to stick to the superstar. If Rose were the Bears quarterback in the midst of a similar situation, how many people would be telling critics to back off because it is his body?

Until the Bulls clarify Rose's medical condition with someone who can read an X-ray, we only can assume his trepidation. If so, somebody needs to tell Rose that nobody expects him to return to MVP form immediately. That it's OK to play 18 minutes and shoot 2-for-9. That superstars aren't superhuman and just being on the floor carries significance for his team — and his career.

Rose's decision to return isn't about the Bulls' inactivity at the trade deadline or ability to win a championship this year. This is about an extraordinary athlete experiencing self-doubt ordinary people experience. This comeback is as much mental as physical, but it sure would be nice to hear that from somebody with a medical degree.

Is there a doctor in the house?

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh