Willis Reed played on an injured leg in the 1970 NBA Finals, thus inspiring his Knicks teammates to a championship performance. In Game 5 of the 1997 Finals, Michael Jordan took the court with a fever of 103 degrees… and scored 38 points. These are the sort of moments some basketball historians have invoked in the discussion of why Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls did not return from knee surgery to help the Bulls, who were eliminated from the playoffs by the Miami Heat on Wednesday
“I don’t think he had much of a plan to [come back this season],” Greenberg said in an interview with Bill Littlefield on Only A Game. “Jerry Reinsdorf, the owner of the Bulls, told him from the beginning, ‘Do not rush this.’ He’s 24 years old and they’d like him to play for another 10 years in Chicago.”
But having seen Rose in practice sessions this year, Greenberg doesn’t question the former NBA MVP’s efforts to get back into game shape.
“I watched him do it and he worked his tail off,” Greenberg said.
Rose started taking more heat about the delay after revealing that he would not return until he could dunk confidently off his left leg.
“I think that his people wanted to put out there, like, ‘Hey, everyone’s saying he’s coming back this day, this day, this day. That’s not 100 percent.’” Greenberg said.
As to whether Rose would have been the difference that pushed the Bulls into the Eastern Conference Finals, Greenberg’s skeptical.
“Can a guy miss a season and come back against the NBA Champions? [Rose] is so good, even at 85, 90 percent he would have made some difference. Would he have lead them to victory? I extremely doubt that.”
In the city where Michael Jordan displayed exceptional determination to play and to continue winning, no matter how often he’d won, Rose’s image has been damaged with some Chicago sports fans.
“[Rose] is unique enough to carve out his own legacy,” Greenberg added. “I think to a lot of people he’s going to have to live this down. A lot of people think he is less of a star because he didn’t come back to play. You know, people are going to question every time he misses a game with [an] injury. I don’t know how long it’ll take. It could be until he wins a title.”