Sad Derrick Rose's sad comeback progress has been the story of the Chicago Bulls season. He's practicing (though not with full contact, or in 5-on-5) and he's traveling with the team. But no timetable for his return has been announced, and with the first half of the season coming to a close, there's no indication whether Rose will be back this year.
Rose hasn't talked either. The breathless coverage has relied on second- and third-hand reports, and a Vine of the occasional half-hearted layup. But not until Monday, despite the pleading and cajoling the frozen-out Chicago reporters, had Rose actually addressed his comeback status.
On Monday, he finally gave his first interview of the season, and he didn't give it to a Chicago writer. He spoke with USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt. The big takeaway was this quote:
"I don't have a set date. I'm not coming back until I'm 110%. 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."
Not huge news, but certainly news. But whereas most fans were just happy to hear something from Rose, the Chicago writers who have spent months trying to pin Rose down to a timetable were less than happy. Multiple reporters have grumbled privately that Rose's camp chose to go with a national writer rather than one of them, and yesterday, CBS's David Schuster went public with his complaints:
I happen to cover the Bulls on a fairly regular basis, and, along with my brethren, we were told that when Rose was ready, he would talk to us as a group. We all conversed with Rose when we saw him at the United Center or at the Bulls practice facility, but with respect to Rose's wishes, none of us pestered him about when – or if – he was coming back.
So you can imagine our surprise when we learned Rose had granted an interview with USA Today. In a word, that was (pun intended) Bull.
I understand that Rose is a money-making machine for his shoe company and so many other products. And that by having this article come out in a national publication it serves a financial purpose. But how many times have we heard that Rose is a "Chicago guy" and his roots and heart are from his home city. To bypass and stiff the local media was an incredible insult.
The message to the local media was blatantly clear: You folks don't matter as much as the entities that can build up Rose's stature even more.
There's a glancing macro industry point here—the increasing competition between national and local writers for the same scoops. (The recent pissing match between Deadspin and the Toledo Blade is one example.) A recent SportsJournalists.com discussion landed on two possibilities—that the national guys are better than local reporters, hence why they were hired by national outlets, or that the local guys are hindered by having to keep up good relations with their regular sources.
That doesn't really apply here, though. That competition is more about actual scoops, about getting a story the subject doesn't want you to get. Rose's triumphant return to the interview chair was carefully choreographed by his handlers. They chose the country's second-most widely read newspaper, because it's about exposure. Nothing personal, Chicago guys. But the Derrick Rose brand is national.