lebron_deng_game4_568Can Derrick Rose’s return re-order the NBA’s power list? It may not be a simple as he – and the Chicago Bulls – might hope.

The complexion of the East has changed somewhat in the last couple of years. One constant that remains is the fact that LeBron and the Heat remain the team to beat. Some teams have made conscious efforts to better themselves and be in a position challenge. I’m thinking of Brooklyn, who made the decision to go for it now with the trade to bring in Pierce and Garnett. Will the 2 future Hall of Famers stay healthy long enough to dethrone King James? Indiana will feel that the return of all star Danny Granger, coupled with Paul George will enhance their chances to go one better this year. The pacers re-signing of David West was their major move this summer and arguably the most vital move they could make.

But one other club got infinitely better this off season without making any significant moves. The Chicago Bulls will be hoping that the return to health of Rose will catapult a solid and dangerous play off team, to genuine contenders. At least that’s the plan! The problem is, that the plan isn’t quite black and white. Rose’s long awaited return after rupturing his ACL on April 28th 2012 raises as many questions as it does answers.

Let’s get things straight. Rose was the 2011 league MVP and deservedly so. He was the best point guard in the league and his presence makes any team better. Right? Right! He does. Or at least he did!

Chicago players, coaches and fans breathed a collective sigh of relief after Rose came through his first game in nearly 18 months unscathed last Saturday in the Bulls’ pre season opener against Indiana. In 20 minutes he tallied 13 points on 5 for 12 shooting and got 3 assists. His mere presence on the court was a huge boost to all associated with the Bulls. However, not wanting to rain on the ticker tape parade, but the season is 82 games+ not 1 pre season game. It goes without saying that the huge question mark hanging over the Bulls is the long term health and durability of Rose.

If (and it’s one huge MJ statue sized IF) Rose can stay healthy and return to his pre injury MVP form then one has surmise that Chicago could well compete with Miami, Indiana and Brooklyn for the East. But returning to any sport and top level competition after so long out with such an injury is really hard. It takes month to regain rhythm and confidence in your game. Not to mention confidence in your body. It is a huge ask for Rose to return without missing a beat and return to 2011 version. This season could be as much about reintegration as it is about challenging.

But there are more questions to ask. I think most would agree that last seasons 45 – 37 record exceeded what was expected of Chicago in Rose-less team. They were competitive and dangerous throughout but missing the explosiveness and superstar quality that is D-Rose (2011). What did happen in the absence of Rose was that 2 players stepped from the shadows as members of “supporting cast” and became bona fide stars themselves. One of the most interesting aspects of Rose’s return for me is the impact it has on the roles of Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. In the absence of their star point guard Noah and Deng shouldered the responsibility of the team and made it their own. Both players were named to the All Star game (a first for Noah) and saw increased productivity over all the major statistical categories.

Now i’m not trying to create controversy here, as this is Rose’s team and will be until he decides otherwise. But his ‘supporting cast’ as it were aren’t the same as they were when he went down. I just wonder how easy it will be for Noah and Deng to see less touches, less shots and generally less everything after such stellar seasons? Both at their peak, neither will be looking to step back into the shadows. You would like to think that the return of their star team mate will fill them with renewed optimism and vigour for an assault on the title. But maybe, just maybe, things won’t quite be so Rose-y!?

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