Doctors say Derrick Rose is cleared to return to the court. The Bulls are eager to get him back. The city of Chicago is feenin’ for a D. Rose dunk like Tyrone Biggums waiting on a shipment of ready rock. Problem is, D. Rose’s head ain’t ready for the lifts he got.

The psychological complexities and sensitivities of a superstar recovering from major surgery are often overlooked by a team when calculating and anticipating his return. It can also be a bigger detriment to the situation than getting physically right.  

The Chicago Bulls have delicately handled Rose’s recovery from the left knee ACL surgery he endured nearly10 months ago. He’s finally practicing and showing some explosiveness. He’s even been seen chilling on the bench and kicking it with his team, but earlier in the week Rose said he won’t be able to rock until he can confidently dunk off of his left foot. Now, ESPN’s Doris Burke reports that hot hamstrings are also a thorn in Rose’s side.

The Bulls are saying the right things publicly, but they obviously want Rose to return this season. Rose’s camp has always expressed the same mild optimism throughout this process. With the playoffs rapidly approaching and the team announcing Rose can play and him being non-committal with a return date, it appears a bit of cat-and-mouse game has ensued.

Rose already hinted that he wouldn’t play at all this season. During an interview on Feb. 13 after the Bulls lost to the Celtics—which was also the last time Rose spoke publicly about his progress—he said: 

“I’m feeling good, but like I said, if it’s where it’s taking me a long time and I’m still not feeling right, I don’t mind missing this year.”

The Bulls, who are fighting for their playoff-seeding lives do mind, and I guess their MVP isn’t moving fast enough. It’s very possible that his lack of expedience led to the Bulls putting it out there that Rose is medically cleared to get his two-step on in the Chi again. The Bulls had to know they were inciting an already starved Chicago fan base with such optimistic news. Some might call it a motivational tactic. It can also be seen as a backdoor sucker move by the Bulls to pressure Rose into lacing up.  

On one hand, coach Tom Thibodeau and the organization are telling Rose to take his time; so that’s what he’s doing. Then, they put news of his medical clearance out there and let it float around in cyber space. It almost seems like a premeditated move to cover their own asses, put the onus of playing on Rose and light a fire under him.

Truth is, Rose has had a lot of time to contemplate his future and worth as a basketball player. He knows that even realer than bringing the Bulls a championship, his presence is an inspiration to millions of kids, and his brother already made it clear that they’re not blowing a future filled with world-shaping to chase the ghost of Michael Jordan with a team they don’t believe in.

Bull’s owner Jerry Reinsdorf has publicly co-signed Rose’s cautious return. He says he doesn’t want a repeat of ’85, when Jordan broke his foot and they risked further injury by rushing him back for the playoffs after missing 64 games, only to get swept by the Celtics. If that’s true, I’d assume Reinsdorf also doesn’t want to repeat the way his relationship with Jordan went sour over the years. No. 23 left Chicago with little love for Reinsdorf.

If Chicago’s really all about having D. Rose as the face of the franchise until he retires, and considers him a brand that transcends basketball, then why not just avoid any potential drama and playoff distractions and shut him down now for the season? Roll with Nate the Great at point and let the Windy City tree leaves fall where they may.