Some less forgiving NBA observers might believe Derrick Rose is verging on being assessed a second strike against him.
Assuming Rose won't play for the Bulls no matter how far they advance in the postseason ...
Wait. Stop right there. Rewind the tape and reboot the computer.
No assumptions can be made here. When a player has defied logic by not coming back this long after being medically cleared, who can say he won't defy it again by coming back now?
What we know for sure is that Rose went the entire regular season without testing his surgically repaired knee in a game. His last chance for a pre-playoff run was Wednesday night when the Bulls played the Wizards in the United Center.
Doctors reportedly cleared Rose for takeoff more than a month ago. He preferred to give himself more time to feel better and wait for a sign from God.
The initial prognosis last May was that Rose would be able to return sometime between eight and 12 months from the date of the injury.
This situation is sort of like my view of cinema: The first two hours of a movie is for the viewer and anything beyond that is for the director. For Rose, the first eight months of rehab was for his knee to heal and the rest for his head to heal.
The Bulls' fan base was sympathetic after Rose's injury but some gradually veered toward curiosity and then toward criticism. More and more became more and more aggravated with his reluctance to give a game a go.
Why the change of heart? Why is faith in the formerly Teflon point guard waning? Why is a significant segment of Chicago turning on one of its own from Englewood?
Judging by how my own emotions evolved during this seemingly endless odyssey, fans view the past year as Rose's second strike. Each smacks of the selfish, a character flaw difficult for admirers of any player on any team in any sport to accept.
The first strike came when Rose declined to recruit high-level free agents that were available a few years ago. The explanation from his camp was that he didn't want to slight his current teammates by helping to replace them.
That would be noble if Rose truly was announcing to his locker room that he could win with the guys next to him in there.
Ah, but was it really that or did Rose consider the Bulls his team and shy away from sharing it with another premier player with a compelling presence?
Back then the noble card won out over the selfish card.
But now this: The impression could be that Rose won't play despite being healthy.
So let's review the whispers: Rose didn't recruit free agents because he didn't want to share his eminent place on the team and isn't playing now because he doesn't want to jeopardize his future.
Maybe neither of those assessments is fair. Maybe Rose really was being faithful to teammates. Maybe he really isn't healthy enough to play.
Regardless, Rose has left himself open to skeptics and that's never good these days amid prevailing skepticism surrounding sports in general.
Rose is positioned now that a foul-tipped or checked-swing third strike will squander what's left of the goodwill he has enjoyed, though all will be forgiven if he plays great when he returns this month or next season.
But playing great better be MVP caliber on the court if Derrick Rose wants to be beloved again the way he used to be off it.
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