Derrick Rose should stop teasing Bulls fans

Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls looks Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls looks on from the bench during Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Nets. (April 20, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty

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Mark Herrmann Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since ...

About a month ago, in a rare public comment about his long rehabilitation from a major knee injury and surgery, Derrick Rose said "nobody knows but God" if he will be back to play for the Bulls this season. To this day, there is no word either from up above or Rose himself about when that ACL will be ready.

Last night would have been a perfect time for one of the NBA's best players to be back on the court, what with the Bulls staring at a 1-0 deficit against the Nets and having a shot at turning around the series and salvaging the season. But there still was no Rose in the lineup, and no sign that one very awkward situation is anywhere near a resolution.

Some fans in Chicago and observers elsewhere have noticed that Rose, whose torn ACL was surgically repaired last May 12, has been working out with the team for the past two months. They see him shooting and occasionally even dunking in warm-ups. They suggest it wouldn't be a terrible idea if someone making $16,402,500 at least give it a shot while his team really needs him.

Sure enough, he was on the Barclays Center court an hour and a half last night, wearing his Bulls warm-ups like the rest of the players and hoisting three-pointers. The man definitely can shoot. He sure looked good.

Rose has put himself in position to say, as Groucho Marx once did: "Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"

This peanut stand gives him the benefit of the doubt. No armchair diagnosis here, no urging him to play when he doesn't feel ready. No comparison with the Knicks' Iman Shumpert, who had the same injury and has been back for months. No pointing out that injured teammate Joakim Noah is hobbling around out there on a bad foot, giving it all he has for a few minutes here and there.

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What advice Rose should get from someone, though, is to make a decision and stick with it. He should either announce that he is coming back or do his warm-ups in private. If he is not going to return this season -- a decision Bulls management and players are more than willing to accept -- he should just say so. Then he should make a big donation to charity with some of the money he made from the shoe company commercials that have been touting his comeback.

And in a move toward closure, he should put a lid on statements from his brother Reggie, who made a bad situation worse when he said after the trading deadline, "It's frustrating to see my brother play his heart and soul out for the team and them not put anything around him."

To their credit, the Bulls have done a great job handling the double challenge of Rose's absence and the uncertainty over when it will end.

"I like the depth of our team, I feel good about our team, I feel we have more than enough to win with," coach Tom Thibodeau said before last night's game. "We have to have a greater intensity. We're shorthanded. We understood that from the start of the season. We have to do this collectively, we have to do it with great intensity."

The Bulls are willing to keep the light on for Rose, Thibodeau said, because he remembers when he was an assistant coach with the Knicks and Patrick Ewing missed much of the 1998-99 season but was able to return for the playoffs. "That experience taught me it's the right thing to do," the coach said, with "it" meaning having hopeful patience.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said earlier this season that when he was playing for the Knicks, he returned from a torn ACL after eight grueling months. "You find out a lot about yourself. I think you grow up," Rivers said.

Rose still might be learning about Rose during this long hiatus. Heaven knows it is time for him to let the rest of us in on it.

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