Derrick Rose won't be playing tonight in Game 7 against the Nets. Can you believe it? What's this guy's deal, anyway?
This guy's deal, of course, is that he tore his ACL. That gets brushed further aside with every "Not Playing Tonight, Either" headline, but it's pretty important. Make no mistake: the Bulls are in rough shape. Luol Deng is in the hospital. Nate Robinson was puking. Joakim Noah has plantar fasciitis. Kirk Hinrich has a bruised calf. They're battling, but it's tough-sledding because they don't have their best player.
That's because less than one year ago, a surgeon cut open Derrick Rose's knee, pushed around some muscle and flesh and repaired his torn anterior cruciate ligament. He was given a recovery time of eight to 12 months. The ACL is a fairly important ligament that allows a person to plant, twist and jump without looking like he just met Dorothy on the yellow-brick road. We can all agree this is important for something like walking and even more important for things like running, pivoting, stopping and jumping.
Another interesting thing about ACLs, knees and legs is that they vary from person to person. My knee is different from Derrick Rose's. Derrick Rose's is different from Adrian Peterson's. And so on. Different still? People's brains and their ability to process information. Derrick Rose has been medically cleared to play, which means a doctor told Derrick Rose that his body is good enough to play sports.
For whatever reason, Derrick Rose's brain is not sold. He does not think a recently-repaired major ligament in his knee can stand up to real gameplay. I have no idea why this is the case, but it's none of my business. Even if it were my business to accuse a player of not being tough, or implying that he doesn't care about his other, tougher teammates, I would have absolutely no way of proving that Derrick Rose is guilty of any of that. None of us know Derrick Rose's body like Derrick Rose does.
Playing in an actual game is a different animal than practicing against teammates. A player has to be able to play without hesitation, confident that when he reacts mentally his body will carry out the orders rather than wondering if it can. Derrick Rose clearly doesn't trust his body yet and could actually hurt himself and his team (both immediately and for the future) if he came back before he had that trust.
Obviously none of this is an issue if the Bulls aren't as banged up as they are, but that's not Rose's fault. Equating the flu with a torn ligament is similarly not Rose's fault, but that won't stop the leading headlines, begging you to question Derrick Rose. Players are supposed to behave like they are mythical gladiators, not real people playing sport because the myth is always better than reality. It's why people remember Willis Reed's stirring comeback, not his box score.