Season ends for the Bulls, time to reflect on what could have been.
The season came to a rather disappointing halt for the Chicago Bulls at the AA Arena on Wednesday night, as their 94-91 defeat to the Miami Heat signalled a 4-1 series win for the latter.
Having battled through a regular season full of trials and tribulations before advancing past the Brooklyn Nets in a thrilling opening round playoff series, the lack of able bodies eventually took its toll on a short-handed Bulls roster.
Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng were absent through the last two weeks due to injury and illness respectively, but having played a significant part in the campaign before being sidelined, the question many are asking is would it have been different if Derrick Rose had played?
The 24-year-old sat out the entire season after tearing his ACL in the playoffs last year, and despite being medically cleared to return to the court back in March, he failed to do so.
The point guard and former league MVP stated that there were mental barriers still preventing him from making a return, as he was unable to confidently make plays that he used to prior to the devastating setback.
Given his explosive nature and emphasis on cutting to the basket and taking contact, initially there was a great deal of sympathy and well-wishing surrounding Rose’s situation considering his importance in the long-term planning of both his own career and the future of the franchise.
However, that soon turned to anger and frustration as his team-mates struggled on the court, with the likes of Joakim Noah battling through plantar fasciitis and the pain barrier to help in any way he could.
While the response from coach Tom Thibodeau and his team-mates has remained one of support throughout, those on the outside were quite willing to accept what had become excuses as the air in the “Windy City” changed regarding their poster boy.
Having participated in pre-game warm-ups and suited up to take his place on the bench alongside his team-mates, there was a continual “will he or won’t he?” surrounding the whole situation.
Perhaps if Rose had come out and ruled himself out for the remainder of the season it would have been different. With hope and expectancy ruled out of the equation, perhaps the fans would have allowed him to rehab in peace.
His much anticipated return never turned into reality. Instead, the Bulls must look back on, and be congratulated for, an incredible season where they did all they could given the circumstances.
However, with a full off-season ahead to get himself in the best possible shape, there will be huge expectation on Derrick Rose, both inside and out of the organisation and with the player himself, to deliver after a lost season.