The WISCH LIST
By Dave Wischnowsky
Eighteen years ago next month, Michael Jordan announced his return to the Chicago Bulls in the quickest – and briefest – way possible circa 1995. He sent out a fax that simply read: “I’m back.”
Perhaps when Derrick Rose finally makes his return to the court – whenever that might be – he’ll inform us in an even quicker and briefer manner more befitting of 2013.
Maybe he’ll tweet: “I’M BCK.”
The how and when of Rose declaring his NBA comeback following rehab for his torn ACL, however, isn’t at all as important as who the 24-year-old is when he dons a Bulls uniform again. Because, while a rose is a rose is a rose, Derrick won’t really be Derrick unless he’s 100 percent – or perhaps even 10 percent better than that.
“I’m not coming back until I’m 110 percent,’’ Rose told USA Today on Feb. 13. ‘‘Who knows when that can be? It can be within a couple of weeks. It could be next year. It could be any day. It could be any time. It’s just that I’m not coming back until I’m ready.’’
And he shouldn’t, no matter how badly Bulls fans might want to see Chicago’s favorite point guard “See Red” again. But in addition to caution, there’s another good reason why Rose shouldn’t try to rush back for the remainder of the 2012-13 season: The Bulls aren’t a true championship contender this year.
And in this era of LeBron James & Kevin Durant, they likely won’t be until the team gets Rose a bona fide superstar to play alongside him. Sorry to break that to you, Bulls fans. But it’s reality.
Last week, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Morrissey made the same point when he wrote that: “The Bulls aren’t going to win an NBA title in 2013. Part of that has to do with the roster, part has to do with where Rose is in his rehab and part has to do with the simple fact the Bulls aren’t the Miami Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder.”
And that adds up to a whole truth.
To be sure, the Bulls have far exceeded expectations this year, sans Rose. They’ve spent much of the season atop the Eastern Conference’s Central Division and remain within striking distance of first-place Indiana. But the Bulls’ biggest dilemma – besides the condition of Rose’s knee – is that this issue of needing a superstar sidekick isn’t just a 2013 problem.
If the Bulls are to scale the championship mountain in the coming years, Rose is going to need help. Because, while his play might seem superhuman, he isn’t Superman. And even Michael Jordan needed his Scottie Pippen to win titles. LeBron James, meanwhile, needed Dwyane Wade to finally get his ring.
When Rose returns to the Bulls, he won’t have a Pippen or a Wade. He’ll have Luol Deng. And no offense to Luol, but he isn’t headed to the Hall of Fame.
Last season, Rose averaged 21.8 points per game. This year, Deng is leading the Bulls at 16.8. Of the last 10 NBA champs, the only ones whose No. 2 scorer averaged less then Deng’s current average were the 2011 Dallas Mavericks (Jason Terry 15.8) and the 2005 San Antonio Spurs (Tony Parker 16.6).
Those Mavs, led by Dirk Nowitzki, did beat James’ Heat, but it was before he and Wade fully gelled. And the ’05 Spurs, led by Tim Duncan, topped a Pistons team that lacked the firepower of the Heat or the Thunder with Durant and Russell Westbrook.
With that in mind, what’s more important than Rose hurrying back to the court is the Bulls hustling to get him more on-court help.