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The return of the Derrick Rose debate

Updated: January 28, 2014 9:10AM

There’s a good chance Derrick Rose will participate in Team USA’s minicamp in July. Good news, right? His surgically repaired right meniscus might be strong enough for practices against some of the best players in the world.

But hold on. You see where this is headed, don’t you?

Months of public debate about whether the Bulls guard should return for the playoffs in April. Referendums on his toughness. Raging arguments about whether the invisible hand of Reggie Rose is directing everything his little brother does. Scholarly discussions on the possibility that Adidas is the spawn of Satan.

You have permission to end my life.

We are headed toward a repeat of last season, which was kidnapped by the topic of whether Rose would return to the Bulls’ lineup after tearing his left ACL the season before. Remember the unending pain of it for the city? The Bulls and Rose both handled that situation poorly, leaving the door open a crack for his return and thus for an avalanche of criticism when he did not come back for the playoffs. His reputation was heavily damaged. The Bulls looked like public-relations bumblers. And we were no better off as human beings for the bickering we did about whether he should have played.

Last week, CSN’s David Kaplan argued that, if Rose were healthy enough to take part in the Team USA workouts in July, he should be healthy enough to help the Bulls in the postseason. He said this on “Sports­Talk Live,’’ a show in which my sole duty when I’m on is to tell him that he is out of his mind. So I did. This time, it wasn’t so much that I thought he was wrong. It’s that I thought he was taking a hypothetical and galloping with it like a spooked horse, which, come to think of it, is how sports talk shows get from subject to subject. He was becoming angry at the mere idea of a selfish Rose ignoring his team for the greater glory of his country, if not his corporate sponsors.

This was only January, I thought. Could we at least wait until March to start piling on Rose? Or at least until he takes his first cut on that knee?

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought Kaplan might be right (help!), at least in terms of timing. It won’t be long before someone reports that the Bulls’ medical staff has cleared Rose to practice again. And then the parsing will begin: By “practice,’’ do the Bulls mean work-the-kinks-out-of-his-knee practice? Getting-ready-for-next-season practice? Humiliating-D.J.-Augustin-into-early-retirement practice? Or Michael Jordan’s “I’m-back’’ practice?

More conjecture. More mind-numbing debate. Sweet mercy.

There’s a difference between playoff basketball and Team USA workouts. I’d like to point that out before the first shot is fired across Rose’s bow. Would you want your franchise player to see his first action in the postseason, when everything is ratcheted up a notch or 10? That’s the question that was asked last year, as well, and I thought Rose and the Bulls came up with the right answer: No. You don’t rush back from a knee injury. By the way, how has rushing back worked for Russell Westbrook?

But playing basketball in the offseason, something Rose refused to do in 2013, is important. It’s why his participation in the Team USA minicamp, no matter how limited he might be, would be beneficial to both him and the Bulls.

There’s something that people need to get out of their minds and probably won’t: Rose’s practicing with Team USA will not be a gauge of his loyalty to the Bulls or of his grit if he sits out the NBA season.

The Bulls announced in November that Rose was done for the season. Not everybody believes them, even now. That’s because he hasn’t ruled out a return. He’s in a no-win situation. If he comes back this season and gets hurt, critics will say he came back too quickly. If he doesn’t come back, he’s selfish and soft.

In the meantime, we’ll have several months to hear from everyone on the topic. Coach Tom Thibodeau will say Rose is making progress in his rehab. TV sports anchors will comment on footage of Rose shooting free throws at Bulls practice. Unnamed teammates will report that Rose looks dominant in scrimmages.

And you know what that means.

“Groundhog Day, the Sequel” (and Sequel and Sequel and …).

Not again. Yes, again.

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