Twelfth in a series
Bulls fans will have a decision to make in a few months.
Assuming Derrick Rose finally returns from ACL surgery in the preseason, will they climb back on board or remain bitter about his cautious path during the 2012-13 season?
No doubt fueled by the competitiveness of last year's depleted squad and a desire to beat Miami in the playoffs, many Bulls fans lost patience with Rose and seemed to turn against the homegrown superstar.
Maybe there will be some lingering resentment, but the more important question is how good a player will Rose be next season?
Skipping all of last year's campaign is a moot point now. It's not like we can truthfully sit here and say, "If Rose had come back, the Bulls would be in the Finals." They have a better chance of accomplishing that next year.
Some fans appeared to put an awful lot of faith in one article, which quoted an unnamed source as saying Rose was "medically cleared" to return in February. Any reasonable doctor would stretch that sentence to read that he was medically cleared to return once he feels comfortable.
It didn't help that Rose filmed those commercials for Adidas promising a triumphant return. Or when his older brother, Reggie, complained about the Bulls' lack of moves at the trade deadline and made it sound as though Derrick wasn't coming back because he didn't like the makeup of the team. Or when someone like Stacey King chimed in that Rose looked great in practice.
All of those things are ultimately meaningless. Only Rose knew how his legs were feeling and there's a strong possibility that sitting out for a full year was, in fact, the smartest move.
He's still the face of the franchise, the Bulls' best player since the championship era ended and he's not going anywhere. If he wasn't ready in April, where will he be in October?
Chances are, he'll be close to his old self. In the modern medicine era, it's reasonable to expect Rose to regain his explosiveness after an ACL tear. He also thinks he'll be a better shooter, since he had so much down time to build strength and hone his skills.
Before this injury happened, though, it was obvious that Rose's game would have to change. No one could pull off an acrobatic, twisting, death-defying drive to the basket quite like Rose, but a 6-foot-2 guard can't sustain a long career in the NBA taking that sort of pounding.
He needs to be able to pick his spots, shoot more jumpers and give his body a break. One reason the Bulls signed Kirk Hinrich last year was so Rose could move to shooting guard at times and linger on the perimeter.
They thought it would make things easier on his body during the recovery period. And from a career-longevity standpoint, something needed to change.
During his time off, Rose's teammates always gave full support. So even if some fans hold bitter feelings, it should be easy for Rose to fit in on the floor.
If Rose looks anything like he did from 2008 to April 28, 2012, the fans will probably come back around quickly.
Next man up: Tom Thibodeau