Is it too late to hit rewind on "The Return?"
Derrick Rose's comeback from ACL surgery started out with good intentions but seems to have turned into a giant headache for all involved.
At this point, it's difficult to tell if the Bulls and Rose are at odds, if Rose doesn't like the direction of the teaml or if he's even coming back at all this season. Somewhere along the line, this supposed story of inspiration took a wrong turn.
Who's at fault? Well, everyone -- the Roses, Derrick and older brother Reggie; Bulls management, Adidas, agent Arn Tellem.
To me, this is a classic case of misguided strategy. Silence is not golden when millions of fans are craving information about a high-profile star. By saying nothing, the principles inevitably lose control of the message.
That's how you end up with anonymous sources claiming Rose is healthy enough to play but chooses to keep rehabbing. Then others speculate that Rose's camp is upset with the Bulls for spreading such a message. Or the Bulls are perplexed that Rose hasn't yet taken the court.
The funny thing is, this whole process started with the Adidas-sponsored web documentary, which claimed to provide unprecedented access to Rose's recovery.
Those webisodes were fine, but they stopped long ago. Rose spoke to the media masses on the eve of training camp, then went silent. Reporters who covered the team daily respected his privacy and figured he would speak again when he had something to say.
Not exactly. Rose broke his silence with a sit-down interview with USA Today. Then he apparently told TNT's David Aldridge he wasn't comfortable going to his left and told ESPN's Doris Burke his hamstrings were on fire.
What would have happened if Rose shared thoughts on his rehab with reporters at the Berto Center every month or so? There probably would be less speculation and fewer anonymous sources. Everyone would know how Rose is doing and why he doesn't feel ready to play.
As the Bulls relax out in California, maybe the best thing to do is break this saga into the knowns and unknowns. Here's what we can reasonably assume is true:
•Rose wants to come back: After all this rehab, he has to be anxious to get on the court. If he's not out there, he's not comfortable physically.
Even if he did receive medical clearance, it would never be taken as an order to start playing. It means he's healthy enough to resume playing when he feels ready.
•Bulls management and Rose's camp need to get on the same page: Reggie Rose's critical comments at the trade deadline provided enough smoke to suggest the Rose family doesn't agree with everything the Bulls are doing.
Now, whether those complaints are about not matching for Omer Asik, being reluctant to go deep into the luxury tax, or a failure to acquire another scorer -- Team Rose wanted Carmelo Anthony -- that part, we can only guess.
At the same time, general manager Gar Forman is responsible for several quality moves, from recent draft picks to finding strong supporting players. As the team's franchise player, Rose should have input, or at least full information, about what's happening in the front office.
With the Bulls on the West Coast, there's a good chance chairman Jerry Reinsdorf will step in and try to smooth things over.
Here's the shortlist of unknowns: When will Rose return, and did the Bulls intentionally leak info about him receiving medical clearance?
The feeling here is Rose still is targeting a return this season, probably in another week or two if the rehab goes well.
There's no telling whether the Bulls tried to spin the message. It's possible, but stories like that can come from a variety of sources.
The bigger question is whether Rose believes the team is trying to make him look bad. That's something the Bulls should get a handle on quickly.
Meanwhile, Tom Thibodeau has been the sole consistent source of information on this topic, repeating similar phrases day after day.
In more ways than one, better communication would go a long way.