Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, the former Most Valuable Player who hasn’t returned from a knee injury two months after doctors declared him fit, needs to get on the court and play, said the former trainer of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
“It’s a mental state for some people,” Tim Grover, the trainer who began working with Jordan in 1989 and Bryant in 2007, said in an interview. “Once he takes that hit and stands back up and sees he’s OK, he’ll be just as good if not better than before.”
Rose, the National Basketball Association MVP two seasons ago, hasn’t played since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the first game of last year’s playoffs. He has been practicing with the team since February and was medically cleared to play in March, according to ESPN.
The Bulls enter the third game of the best-of-seven playoff series against LeBron James and the Miami Heat tonight at home tied after losing the second game 115-78.
His teammates have struggled through other ailments: Forward Luol Deng has been out since April 29, and had a spinal tap to check for viral meningitis. All-Star Center Joakim Noah has plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of a ligament in the sole of the foot. Kirk Hinrich, who replaced Rose at point guard, is out with a severely bruised calf. Game 2’s rout by the Heat included 51 personal fouls, plus the ejection of Noah and Taj Gibson.
Rose has said he might play during the postseason, and told Turner Broadcasting System Inc.’s TNT network that he needed to regain his muscle memory to return.
Bulls fans say it’s time for the team’s highest-paid player to get back on the court. In 2011, he signed a five-year extension with the Bulls for $95 million and in 2012 signed a 14-year deal with Adidas for $260 million, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“Should he be playing? Hell yeah,” said Duan Johnson, 35, a trading clerk at the Chicago Board of Trade. “If everybody else can play, he can play. He’s getting paid a pretty good salary to sit down.”
Matt Casson, a trader at Darkstar Capital in Chicago, said the time has passed. He pointed out how Chicago fans criticized Bears quarterback Jay Cutler when he left the 2011 National Football Conference championship game against the Green Bay Packers when he sprained his knee.
“He should have been playing weeks ago,” Casson, 42, said.
The Bulls advanced to the second round of the playoffs after beating the Brooklyn Nets. During that series, Nate Robinson vomited in a bucket on the sidelines and kept playing; Gibson fought through the flu; and Hinrich injured his calf. In the first game of the series against the Heat, a 93-86 Chicago victory, Robinson required 10 stitches in his lip after colliding with James, according to the Tribune. Game 2 started with the 5-foot-9 Robinson being knocked to the floor by 6-foot-8 Udonis Haslem, the kind of hit that Rose needs to take, according to Grover.
“It’s not great to watch a game like last night’s and know that Derrick is on the sidelines,” George Dowd, head of Chicago foreign exchange for Newedge USA LLC, an institutional brokerage firm, said yesterday. “But anyone who played sports knows, especially in postseason play, the most difficult thing in the world is sitting on the sidelines and watching your team struggle.”
Rose endeared himself to the city as he emerged from Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, which for years has been notorious for gun violence. It’s where singer Jennifer Hudson’s family was slain in 2008.
His face is on billboards and pizza boxes for Giordano’s, which serves Chicago’s deep dish pies. Company Chief Executive Officer Yorgo Koutsogiorgas was out of the country and unavailable for comment, according to Jessica Wenson, a spokeswoman.
Sponsors like Giordano’s and Adidas take a hit when players sit out games because they aren’t able to capitalize on good performances. In the case of Rose, they are limited in what commercials or promotional events they can stage due to possible customer backlash, said Jim Andrews, a senior vice president of content strategy at IEG, a Chicago-based sponsorship consultant.
“The bad feelings go away pretty quickly with our sports heroes,” Andrews said in an interview. “Long-term I don’t think this will have an impact. The negative is that they can’t take advantage of him the way they could if he were playing.”
Rose may be the victim of unfair comparisons to Jordan, who won six championships with the team, said Grover, author of “Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable.”
“To compare anyone to MJ is unfair,” he said. “If he went in at halftime and the doctor said he’s got a broken finger, MJ would tell him to cut it off and he’d figure out how to play.”
-- Editors: Michael Sillup, Jay Beberman