NORMAN — A year ago, Derrick Rose owned Chicago.
Billboards, TV spots, kids wearing Bulls’ No. 1 jerseys — everyone and everything celebrated the high school hero who came home and made the dynasty that Michael Jordan built feel relevant again.
The NBA postseason was just gathering steam and you couldn’t go three blocks or step into a restaurant without being reminded of it.
Then, with just 90 seconds left in the opening game of the Bulls’ playoff series against the 76ers, Rose put a foot down awkwardly, tore his ACL and for the most part, just disappeared.
A year later, his presence is notable, if at all, at the center of a whispering campaign: “If doctors cleared him a month ago, why isn’t he playing?”
No one seems to know how to answer that, least of all, Rose himself.
His coach, Tom Thibodeau, was asked the question right after the All-Star break, and nearly every day afterward, and eventually ran out of ways to say, “I have no idea.” Rose hasn’t been any help, looking fit in full scrimmages of late and suggesting the only part of his body still to be convinced of a return was between his ears.
Two months ago, he declared himself in the “high 80s” on the way to being 100 percent healthy. Last month, Rose said his return “could be tomorrow,” and then mysteriously tacked on this at the end of his answer: “Nobody knows but God.”
If there’s going to be divine intervention — let alone some suspense — any time during this NBA postseason, it better come soon. After LeBron James’ regular-season-for-the-ages performance, it’s hard to see any team capable of dethroning the Miami Heat, except perhaps a squad made up of the stars likely to spend the rest of the playoffs on the bench.