Steve Kerr said Monday he thinks Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose "owes it to his teammates" to play if the only obstacle is confidence as the banged-up Bulls take on the Brooklyn Nets in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The one-year anniversary of Rose tearing his left ACL passed Sunday. He underwent surgery on May 12 and the prognosis for recovery was 8-12 months. ESPN Chicago reported on March 9 that Rose had been medically cleared to play and he has been scrimmaging five-on-five since Feb. 19. Indications are Rose has regained his explosiveness and has looked dominant in practice, but he still hasn't played this season and has said it's a matter of regaining his confidence. He said he's not certain when he'll return.
"I think the Bulls have handled it the right way," Kerr said on "The Carmen & Jurko Show" on ESPN 1000. "Err on the side of caution, tell him, 'Hey look, when you're ready, you come back.'
"But I wouldn't hesitate to go to him today and say, 'Here's the deal. We're not going to say anything publicly. But we need you. Kirk (Hinrich) is out. We need 25 minutes. We've seen you. We've cleared you two months ago. If you're not comfortable, then that's fine, and we won't mention one word. We'll continue to go the path we've gone. But we need you.'"
The criticism of Rose has escalated as he's watched Hinrich (calf) and Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis) fight through injuries to put the Bulls up 3-1. Hinrich has been ruled out for Game 5 on Monday in Brooklyn. Kerr, who won three of his four titles with the Bulls and is a former Phoenix Suns general manager, will work Game 5 as a TNT analyst.
"And to me, I think Derrick owes it to his teammates at this stage," Kerr said. "And again, I've been Derrick's biggest supporter on this. I've been saying all along, up until two days ago, I've been saying, 'He should not play if he's not comfortable.'
"But if this is just about not being fully confident, you've got to go out there. If this is about, 'Hey, it doesn't feel right and I'm worried I can hurt it,' then no way should he play. But if this is just about, 'You know gosh, I'm just not quite confident yet.' I would appeal to him and say, 'Can you give us 20 minutes.' And if you're Derrick, you've been watching Noah and Hinrich play on one leg this whole series, at what point do you start to feel sort of self-conscious and guilty about what's unfolding?"
Rose has said he feels no pressure to return. He also said he would return during the playoffs if he felt ready, and coach Tom Thibodeau has not shut the door on that possibility.
"It could be tomorrow and I feel like I could play the next game," Rose said on March 21. "Nobody knows but God."
Up until Saturday, when Hinrich and Noah played through their injuries to help the Bulls win in triple-overtime, Kerr had been steadfast that Rose should come back only when he's comfortable.
"It's a really tricky situation," Kerr said. "I realize the whole world's eyes are on Derrick, the basketball world's eyes are on him. And he lives in a different realm than the rest of us, so there's a ton more pressure. But if this is just about the team, then I think he kind of owes it to these guys to get out there."
Kerr was asked whether he thinks the Bulls are asking themselves privately why Rose hasn't returned. The Bulls' front office has said it wants Rose to take as much time as he needs and Rose's teammates have been emphatic in defending him.
"I think there's so much respect for Derrick because of the type of character he has and the type of person he is, what he's meant to that franchise, and the Bulls players -- the Bulls have done such a great job of putting together a group of guys who really care and are committed to the team -- so they're not going to say anything," Kerr said. "But probably privately at some point, they're going to be like, 'Hey, you know, what's the deal? Let's go, we're trying to win here.'
"But again, let me reiterate, if there's any question in his own mind about being injured, then he should not go out there. But if it's just about, 'I'm not quite confident enough,' you know what, I'm sure Joakim's not confident in his foot and Kirk's not confident in his calf. And if that's all this is about, then it's time to get out there."