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Derrick Rose needs to play with Team USA

Updated: August 11, 2014 10:45PM



Public sentiment seems to favor the idea of barricading Derrick Rose in a room so that he won’t play one more minute for Team USA.

That might sound drastic, but it’s no more drastic to the worriers than a leg bone going in a direction it wasn’t meant to go. The leg bone in question is Paul George’s. And if you had the misfortune of seeing it do unnatural things during Team USA’s scrimmage Aug. 1,
imagine being George, who might miss the 2014-15 season because of the sickening injury.

But it’s no reason to keep Rose under lock and key.

Some of us were annoyed the Bulls star played no basketball last offseason after more than a year of rehabbing a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. No basketball, as in none. No summer-league games. No pickup games. Yes, he worked out like a madman while getting his surgically repaired knee stronger, but he didn’t play any kind of game until training camp opened. It seemed illogical. If you missed an entire season because of a knee injury, you’d want to get that knee ready for the rigors of the NBA, right? The way to do that is to play the game during the offseason, correct?

Ten games into the Bulls’ 2013-14 schedule, Rose suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee and was lost for the season.

So now he’s taking a different approach by trying out for the national team, and he looks very, very good. It’s worth pointing out that, until George’s leg twisted awkwardly against a basket stanchion in Las Vegas, most everyone was excited about Rose’s progress. You didn’t hear many people suggest his participation was risky.

You didn’t hear anyone saying he should skip out on Team USA practices Thursday and Friday in Chicago and an exhibition game Saturday against Brazil at the United Center.

But now, having watched the horror of George’s injury, lots of Bulls fans want Rose nowhere near that squad. When megastar Kevin Durant quit the national team last week, citing mental and physical fatigue, Bulls fans were hoping it would be contagious.

If I have this straight, their idea is that Rose should avoid getting hurt by not playing basketball. How did that work out for him last season? After tearing his ACL in April 2012, he wisely sat out the next season. What wasn’t so wise was his decision to avoid any kind of competitive basketball afterward. When he did return last season, he struggled to find his rhythm. Did the lack of on-court activity lead to his other knee injury? No one knows for sure, but I have my suspicions.

In the last three seasons, the 2011 NBA most valuable player has played in 49 of a possible 230 regular-season games. The way flowers need water, Rose needs hoops.

The way to get your body into basketball shape is, in part, to play basketball. If Rose and the other players decided to back away from the national team because of the risk of injury, what do you think they would be doing? Looking for a pickup game against top competition.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has protested the involvement of NBA players in international tournaments because the players and the league get nothing out of it financially. It’s about money because it always is. But somewhere beneath the weight of sheer commerce are athletes who like to compete. What do you do about that?

After Rose had rehabbed his ACL for nearly a year, there was a clamor for him to return for the end of the 2012-13 season. He could help the Bulls make a playoff run, advocates said. Look at how quickly the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson had returned from a similar knee injury, they said. The thinking went that it was better to get some of the rust off at the end of one season than at the beginning of the next.

I didn’t see it that way. I saw it as risky business to throw Rose back in for the playoffs, when the game is ratcheted up that much more. He and the Bulls took the conservative approach, the right approach.

If that looks like a contradiction given my stance on the importance of Rose playing for Team USA, look again. He’s coming off a torn meniscus, a less severe injury than a torn ACL. He needs to play basketball — serious basketball — to strengthen his body and his confidence. The more, the better.

And, eventually, a better, healthier Rose.



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