Derrick Rose received a lot of heat to sit out the entire NBA season even after doctors considered his torn ACL good to go, but he has at least one important person in his corner: Bulls executive John Paxson.
The Bulls' vice president for basketball operations lauded his team's star's dedication to his body, even comparing it to that of ex-teammate Michael Jordan, and said critics who called for his return as the team went through the playoffs were too harsh on the 2011 MVP, according to the Chicago Tribune:
"It's the way of the world now, the social media, everything that goes on," Paxson said. "Everybody wants to point a finger and blame and accuse and that kind of stuff. And the reality is, Derrick and us, we were all on the same page from the beginning. If he was ready to play mentally and physically, he was going to play. It didn't happen this year."
Paxson's characterization of the team and Rose being on the same page is in contrast to the way the situation was described during the playoffs. Most reports indicated that the team was ready and willing to integrate Rose into the lineup whenever he felt capable of playing, but that Rose was the sole decision-maker in the process after receiving clearance from doctors.
In Paxson's eyes, the time off was a good thing.
"There's no question in my mind that the time he spent on his body this past year was the best thing he's ever done because I think he's learned that, to compete in an NBA season and absorb the physical contact that he does, what he's done during this rehab has benefitted him greatly. I think it's going to make him better and stronger.
"We're fortunate that we've got a kid who is still young and is dedicated to the job and wants to continue being a great player. I think he's going to come back bigger, stronger, better than ever."
There's a lot of debate on whether or not Rose made the right decision in opting to rest his knee. His choice certainly hurt the 2013 Bulls on the court: as injuries and illnesses to other players mounted, the team was forced to go into battle with hypothetical third-string point guard Nate Robinson as the starter and untested rookie Marquis Teague in the rotation. Although Robinson had heroic performances and small forward Jimmy Butler adapted better than anybody might have expected to a role as the team's de facto star, the team also fell on its face several times, and was hopeless against the Miami Heat.
On the other hand, they might well have been hopeless even with Rose. And the point guard who made the team the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference before his injury last season didn't feel comfortable, in his body or in his mind, making the moves that made him a great player, even a year after the injury. There's no right or wrong answer, but so long as Rose is on good terms with his front office, the future remains bright in Chicago for a team with a 24-year-old superstar.
Paxson said the team was in talks with Rose about whether he would play pickup basketball this summer. The one-time player who won three titles with the Bulls said that Rose's workouts reminded him of the training regimen Jordan and trainer Tim Grover worked on when the team was successful in the 1990s.