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TELANDER: Derrick Rose’s absence doesn’t make sense, leaving many questions lingering



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Updated: April 22, 2013 2:48PM

NEW YORK — There he was on the bench Saturday night at the Barclays Center with his teammates as they were demolished by the Nets 106-89.

The only difference was that he was dressed in a gray, tailored business suit, and they were dressed in basketball sweats and uniforms.

It can’t be fun for Derrick Rose to sit impotently and watch such blowouts.

It can’t be easy to fidget and stand up at every timeout and take a place behind sweating, panting, lesser guards Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson.

It can’t be pleasant to hear the yells from the crowd or the buzzing undertone everywhere he goes: ‘‘Why don’t you play, Rose?’’

And yet, Rose does not play.

He hasn’t played since April 28, 2012, when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Game 1 against the 76ers. Surgery came May 12. ‘‘The surgery went great,’’ Rose’s older brother Reggie said shortly after.

The prognosis then was for a full recovery, with rehabilitation taking anywhere from eight months to a year. Nothing has changed in the interim. Rose has been cleared medically to play. It has been almost 11½ months since the ligament was repaired.

Maybe the extra 20 days will make all the difference. But Rose is scrimmaging with the team. Hard. Some observers of those closed-door events say he is lighting it up. And, remember, he has been cleared to play. But on and on it goes, seemingly without end.

Twenty days from now, the Bulls will be vacationing somewhere, long put out of their misery by the surging Nets.

‘‘The thing is, we don’t want him out there until he’s completely comfortable,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said, ‘‘and he’s not comfortable yet.’’

Even as he speaks such words, Thibodeau must realize their absurdity. Who ever feels comfortable in his first game back from traumatic surgery?

Rose’s comfort will have to be earned, and it never will be the same feeling he had before his knee ligament shredded. How can it be? Have you ever had surgery on a joint? Has it ever felt precisely the same as it did before?

So why doesn’t he play? The Bulls are toast in this series if they play one more pitiful contest like the one Saturday. Luol Deng hardly could play worse — six points, 0-for-3 from the free-throw line, two rebounds in 38 minutes. And Rip Hamilton — zero points, no assists, one turnover in seven-plus minutes — might as well just retire if this is all he can muster.

But the Nets guard-center duo of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez will continue to rule if Bulls center Joakim Noah, plagued with plantar fasciitis, and the overmatched Hinrich can’t play better. Noah, indeed, might be wounded beyond hope for this postseason.

All of which only reminds us how exciting a matchup between Williams/Lopez and a healthy Rose/Noah would have been. What we’re looking at now is maybe just symbolism, an attempt to show the world that money and pain and even deep-rooted insecurity mean little when compared to toughness and teamwork and dedication.

In New York, we’re hearing all the same things tossed about as Yankees superstar Derek Jeter begins another rehab after reinjuring his ankle, which had been surgically repaired in the offseason. Jeter’s toughness and resilience, at nearly 39, are unquestioned.

‘‘His toughness was something that became embedded in the fabric of the Yankees, a physical and mental resiliency,’’ wrote the New York Post’s Joel Sherman on Sunday. ‘‘So his absence may be about more than a missing star shortstop.’’

Same with Rose. At some time, maybe right now, it’s not that the Bulls are missing their MVP point guard. It’s that they’re missing their heart.

Rose can’t have gone from the never-surrender warrior he was in his first four NBA seasons to some kind of timid malingerer, can he?

That does not compute.

The combined, guaranteed
$355 million he will get from the Bulls and Adidas can’t be the overriding factor here, can it? D-Rose, Chicago’s up-from-the-concrete-jungle-of-Englewood can’t be in this just for the bling, can he?

We don’t want to believe that. We won’t believe that. I sure won’t.

It still hasn’t been a year since the injury, so the rehab clock ticks yet. But why didn’t he just say he’s out for the season months ago?

Why did Thibs say after Game 1, ‘‘He wants to be out there very badly … but he just can’t quite make that final step’’?

Is it a baby step? A man step?

Or is it as simple as crawling up and out.

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