The moment the sentence was out of his mouth it was going to tilt the conversation. "If I'm healthy and the situation is right, if my meniscus is truly healed, of course … "
Life would have been so much easier had Derrick Rose not gone there. This time the Chicago Bulls did the right thing and protected him. This time the organization shut down all the"how-soon-can-he-get-back-on-the-court" talk by declaring Rose out for the rest of this season after the surgery to repair his torn meniscus. The team's decision-makers did exactly what they should have done following his ACL tear, which would have averted the open season of criticism last spring … but there was Rose opening the door on a return this spring, even if it was only a tiny crack.
Look, you can parse every sentence, every word out of his mouth if you want and obsess over the possibility that Rose, should the Bulls reach the playoffs, could come back. Of course, you would have learned absolutely nothing from the first knee injury and time missed subsequently, which is to say you can't miss months and months of time with an injured knee, walk back into the lineup -- especially at playoff time -- and be an effective professional basketball player, because that's fantasy stuff. Rose, unlike so many of today's athletes, doesn't have an agenda in mind when he answers a question.
It was probably best for all involved that Thibs, when faced with the media before the Bulls-Heat game, said, "To me, he's out for the season." Thibs backslid a bit when he added, "If something happens along the way … " but gathered himself to conclude, "We want him to be completely healthy … it's been determined he's out for the season."
Clearly, they're all hoping there's a fairy tale ending where Rose works himself back into the lineup ahead of schedule. It's every athlete's goal. But even in a dream scenario we're talking, what, April? By that time the Bulls might have made some fairly large deal that looks toward the future and gives up on the immediate goal of chasing Miami.
Either way you protect your No. 1 asset, which Rose still is, so with so much time between now and April I'm jumping right over that remark, the one so many people will fixate on, to get to the issues that matter more immediately, like this torn meniscus not being nearly as severe as the torn ACL, like Rose being so much more in tune with what he has to do to come back this second time, like Rose saying he's not about to change his style of play, which many people believe is contributing to his knee injuries.