Don’t look now, and Derrick Rose apparently isn’t, but the Bulls franchise player’s image could become a five-alarm fire in the next two weeks.
I didn’t think there was anything worse than Rose’s sitting on the bench in street clothes while hobbled and sick teammates battled to win the Nets series. I mean, sure, Rose looked sharp in that suit, especially compared to Nate Robinson’s puking on the bench, and especially when it’s likely that Rose probably is the healthiest player on that roster.
That scene might’ve turned more of Chicago against Rose than anything else during his refusal to complete the last phase of his rehab from ACL surgery on his left knee.
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But wait. There’s a scenario that might do worse things for Rose and his image that is battered more than his left knee:
A close series against the Heat.
By close I mean two wins. Three would be remarkable for Team HMO. A series win is a pipe dream, a crackpipe dream, and stop it right now.
But two wins by a Rose-less Bulls would be more than the Rose-led Bulls managed two years ago. Compare and contrast. Oh, and cover your ears before screaming Bulls fans weigh in with thoughts on what the Bulls might’ve done with Rose playing.
In the series two years ago, the Bulls won the opener and that was it. LeBron James locked onto Rose down the stretch, and Rose disappeared. That began the screaming for a second star who could get his own shot. Rose’s brother, Reggie, loudly voiced that sentiment recently, leading many to believe he’s the reason that Rose won’t come back this season.
It’s Rose’s right to sit out the season to make sure his body is healthy enough to resume his career. However, Rose has created a disaster by refusing to say that he has always planned to skip this season. He has been getting horrible advice in the handling of this. He looks weak-minded in refusing to embrace the last phase of his rehab, which is playing in actual games.
If Rose is as unaware of the virulent reaction to his refusal to play as he claims to be, then he really does have issues.
But back to the series. Imagine if these Bulls with Rose in designer clothes take a couple games against the defending champions who barely have lost a quarter in the postseason. Ka-boom, right, Neil Funk?
Whether it’s comparable or relevant, the comparison would be made because the image would be as clear and obvious as Robinson’s vomiting on the bench. The discussion of Rose’s wimpiness and selfishness would be loud, believe me. The anger would be palpable. Rose’s Q rating would plummet below Jerry Krause’s, you watch.
A competitive series by the Bulls would be amazing when you consider what a mess they are. Luol Deng is post-spinal tap and might not be done with hospital visits. Kirk Hinrich remains halt or limp --- whatever, he’s not going to start the series, if he plays at all. Robinson is getting over the flu, and Taj Gibson has been pathetic.
If you break down the players and spots, you could give the Bulls the edge the way Our Bulls Guy K.C. Johnson did here. But, as K.C. notes, so what? If James stays healthy, it’s over. If James stays healthy, the Heat could destroy three Central Division teams in 12 games to win the East. If James stays healthy, the Heat are going to win their second straight title.
Seeing Joakim Noah go all Joakim Noah against the Nets in Game 7 is the symbol of the Bulls’ hope against the Heat. Noah ran and dunked and rotated everywhere defensively against the Nets. The plantar fasciitis was a memory. Noah remains an issue for the Heat. Same goes for Carlos Boozer. Both Bulls big men win their matchups against Chris Bosh at center and Udonis Haslem at power forward.
James, of course, cancels out every matchup advantage. I just wanted to point out the Bulls are not the hopeless bunch you might think.
A healthier version of this Rose-less unit split the four games against the Heat in the regular season. As we’ve seen, Tom Thibodeau is one of the two or three best coaches in the league because his teams hustle, defend and win. It doesn’t seem to matter who has the heart and mind to take a jersey. It doesn’t seem to matter who has a vomit bucket like he was ordering bottle service. It doesn’t seem to matter who the opponent is.
The Bulls’ elimination from the postseason comes this series, but I don’t see them rolling over. They might lose some games big, but it won’t be for a lack of effort, and their usual relentlessness might earn them a couple wins. That would be more than the Bulls managed with Rose in uniform. That might be more than Rose’s image can take right now.
Rose’s reputation is in a death spiral. The Bulls’ postseason advancement has exacerbated the disgust that many Bulls fans are voicing toward Rose. Makes you wonder if Rose would be better off rooting for a Heat sweep.