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updated: 3/11/2013 5:09 AM

Bulls' Rose seems more confused than afraid

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  • Derrick Rose just might have too many voices in his head as the Bulls await his return to the lineup.

    Derrick Rose just might have too many voices in his head as the Bulls await his return to the lineup.
    Associated Press


Sooner or later, Derrick Rose will overcome his confused state of mind and get back to work.

That day will come too soon for those who want him to protect his future and too late for others more concerned with the present.

The struggling Bulls played hard again Sunday but lost 90-81 to the Lakers at Los Angeles, just another game for which Rose didn't return from a knee injury while critics moan that he should be playing.

Once again the Bulls were painful to watch, especially on offense. They appear to be in search of someone to run the team better than Nate Robinson can.

Someone like, you know, Derrick Rose even if he's a lesser Derrick Rose than we're accustomed to seeing.

Reports are that doctors have cleared Rose physically to play but that he isn't ready mentally for his first game action in 10 months.

My instinct is to be in the camp that snickers at Rose's reluctance. If proclaimed medically fit, players should play.

The other camp makes the case that the Bulls aren't going to beat the Heat anyway so Rose might as well sit out the entire season. But while a championship is the goal in sports it isn't the only reason to play the games.

It's better to make the playoffs than miss them; better to win one postseason series than none; better to win two series than one; better to advance as far as possible than to surrender early.

So, hey, young man, get back into the Bulls' lineup and onto the court and into the swing of things … now!

Easy for us to say, of course, so maybe we all should just cool it, consider whom we're dealing with here and let the process play itself out.

Sometimes it's easy to forget that Rose not only is young but the surgically repaired knee is his first significant injury. Even for a world-class athlete at his age and this stage of his career, life tends to be more experimental and exploratory than clear and cut.

Decisions -- and mistakes -- are difficult enough to make without having an entire city watching and waiting and whining.

Rose does have the advantage of advisers counseling him, from family to friends to agents to accountants to lawyers to the media to shoe executives to Bulls executives.

But are they an advantage or really a disadvantage?

Signs point to Rose being confused more than afraid, sort of like a golfer with too many caddies telling him which way a $10-million putt is going to break.

Rose's recent tweets about having a down day indicated a scrambled psyche; he avoided local reporters for months and then betrayed them by lapsing into interviews with national outlets; he didn't sit on the bench during games and then did and then didn't again.

Older athletes are more comfortable depending on their own instincts, often because they already have suffered through serious injuries.

Those guys know who they are, what they can do and how they can do it. They don't have to interpret their bodies because to them the messages are loud and uncomplicated.

As much as Rose knows what to do in a game, he's still trying to figure out when to get out there and do them. The most puzzling voice yelping at him might be his own.

Trust doctors, no, trust your body. Play, no, don't play. Value today, no, value tomorrow. Come back this season, no, wait until next season. Be true to your teammates, no, be true to yourself.

I get dizzy thinking of the possibilities and can't imagine how Derrick Rose's head must be spinning.

A good guess is that he's eager for a comeback but anxious over whether sooner is better than later.

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