It doesn't sound like Derrick Rose is coming back this season.
That's the sense I got after listening to Rose speak for the first time in over four months to local reporters on Wednesday night. It doesn't sound like he's mentally in a place where he feels comfortable being back on the floor right now.
"I'm feeling good," Rose said. "But like I said if it's where it's taking me a long time and I'm still not feeling right I don't mind missing this year."
Lots of people have spoken about Rose and his recovery over the last few months. They've said he is doing well and they like what they've seen. They've said they don't want to put pressure on him and they want him to come back at his own pace but almost all thought, especially from within the organization, that he would return at some point this season. To hear those words come out of his mouth means the possibility of him sitting out the season is real and may even be more probable than him returning.
Rose said he 'would love' to return this season but in the same breath said there was no point to return if he didn't feel right.
"I would love to (play this year)," Rose said. "I would love to. That's why I approached my rehab and my workout so hard. I'm trying to get back on the court as quickly as possible but if I have anything lingering on it's no point."
What was left unsaid but is surely being discussed in Rose's inner-circle is this: If the Bulls start losing more games and it looks like they don't have much a chance to advance in the NBA playoffs there's also no point in Rose returning. Rose's camp knows that the Bulls probably aren't good enough to win a title this season and they know the pressure placed on Rose if he does come back this year will be huge.
Fair or not, the former MVP will be expected to lead the Bulls deep into the playoffs as he continues his recovery from the knee injury. Rose has always been viewed as the savior of the franchise, but that moniker will be stronger than ever if he returns now because he would bolster a team that already appears headed for a playoff berth.
With the offense Rose would provide, the Bulls would have the type of weapon they've been sorely lacking all season. A player who can get his own shot and set up his teammates whenever he wants to -- a game-changer. But that's the problem for Rose's representatives, they'd rather not place him in that kind of situation, especially under a notoriously hard-charging coach like Tom Thibodeau. That's why in the wake of Rose's comments, the safest bet isn't one regarding his availability for this season, it's that behind the scenes there is going to be an ongoing rift between the Bulls and Rose's representatives.
"It's really on me to make that decision when I'm going to play again," Rose said. "So that's cool that they left it up to me."
Rose's heart may be in the right place, and he may truly believe that it will be his call to make, but the money involved with his future will make sure everyone has a say. Why would Rose's representatives want him to be on the floor this season and risk putting him in a situation where he won't be instantly successful? If Rose doesn't feel like he is mentally or physically ready to play, it won't matter what the Bulls' doctors say. Rose's representatives will push the 24-year-old not to play this season and will sell him on the fact the Bulls won't be able to win this year with or without him. Rose, being the competitor that he is, probably won't like that but he will understand that his future is at stake. As a source told ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers recently, there is a lot more that goes into this decision than how Rose feels on the basketball court.
"You're not jeopardizing winning a championship, but you're jeopardizing Derrick's career if he plays and gets hurt again," said the source, who indicated the chance of Rose returning this season is "50-50." "A lot of people are seeing him doing 1-on-1 or 2-on-2, but he's not ready. He's not 100 percent yet."
"Derrick has to feel comfortable. That's the key. He has to feel comfortable. There's no way in hell he's going to feel pressure. There's too much at stake. He has signed all these deals."
There's the rub for the Bulls and Rose. There is too much money invested into the point guard's future to place him on the floor unless he is absolutely ready mentally and physically. After listening to Rose speak, it doesn't sound like the odds are good that he'll get there at any point this season. Whether he did it knowingly or not, Rose's planted even more seeds of doubt into whether or not he would return this year. The team's success or failure after the All-Star break may help speed up the process one way or another, but if I were putting down money of my own, I would bet against seeing Rose play this season after listening to him on Wednesday night.