HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Steve Kerr understands the importance of every shot, every possession and every games this time of year. You don’t win five championships in your 15-year career and not comprehend the significance of each and every step you take in the middle of May.
That’s why the sweet-shooting TNT analyst was a must-get for Episode 117 of the Hang Time Podcast. With the conference semifinals winding down and the conference finals looming, a sobering dose of perspective was needed here at headquarters. We needed someone to provide a little context and perspective to what LeBron James and the Miami Heat are going through right now, what Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors are dealing with right now and what it all means in the grand scheme of things.
Things are fluid for so many of the teams still alive in the playoffs, not to mention the teams whose seasons have finished and are searching for coaches and eventually players to help them get to the point where they are still play in mid-May. Kerr breaks it all down, and more, including his assessment that Heat star Dwyane Wade is no longer an “everyday superstar” but an “every other day superstar.”
We thought Kerr’s presence might defuse the normal mid-week volcano that is Rick Fox, whose “Get Off My Lawn” rant of the week includes his debunking of the NBA’s great point guard myth (as he describes it only the way he can).
In Rick’s estimation, we might have seen the last of the point guards to win MVP in the The Finals when Spurs point guard Tony Parker did in 2007. He’ll could very well be the last of his kind, according to Rick, to find his way into the company of elite players at his position like Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas and Chauncey Billups, the only PGs other than Parker since 1980 to claim that hardware.
(Sorry Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and the rest of you, Rick says don’t bother.)
You get all of that and a whole lot more on Episode 117 of the Hang Time Podcast …
MIAMI – Based on who they have, who they don’t and what their depleted roster might have left in a postseason that has lasted longer than they probably had a right to expect, the Chicago Bulls appear to have hit a wall.
Naturally, they’ll do what they have done before in such circumstances. They will peel themselves off it like Wile E. Coyote after the painted-tunnel trick, do an about-face and face the Miami Heat in Game 5 of their conference semifinals series (7 p.m ET, TNT). With their backs against that proverbial wall.
“All we’re thinking about is Game 5, first quarter. That’s it,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said at his team’s morning shootaround. “You’ve got to go step by step. To me, it’s be ready for the first quarter. We understand what needs to be done. That’s all we’re focused in on. Not any of the what-if’s or any of that.”
Few teams, frankly, have more what-if’s about them than the Bulls, who again will face the NBA defending champions without forward Luol Deng, without guard Kirk Hinrich and, of course, without 2011 MVP Derrick Rose. Deng – two weeks after suffering some severe flu symptoms as well as complications from a diagnostic spinal tap – did not even travel with the club for this one. Hinrich’s calf bruise, suffered in Game 4 of the first round, still prevents him from running or playing.
As for Rose, well, if he invests the way he rehabs from knee surgery, his risk aversion would have his millions all sitting in a checking account. That’s how conservative he’s been since having his torn left ACL repaired a year ago this week.
The Bulls still standing shoulder on. They are 2-5 in franchise playoff history in Game 5 when facing elimination, temporarily fending off Detroit in 2007 and Philadelphia in 2012. This Miami team, meanwhile, is 7-1 in the Big 3 era when it has a chance to close out the opposition.
“Whatever your circumstances are, you have to make the best of those circumstances,” Thibodeau said. “This team has dealt with adversity all year. We’ve had the unique ability to bounce back. That’s what I’m expecting us to do tonight.
“Emotion’s not going to win the game. Playing well, doing your job, getting it done, that’s what’s going to win the game.”
Said guard Nate Robinson: “Last game, we didn’t make shots. First game we played here, we played hard, we made shots. That’s what it’s about, getting stops and getting buckets.”
Robinson, the instant-offense backup thrust in Hinrich’s absence into Rose’s role, scored 27 points in Game 1, the Bulls’ surprise road victory of the series. Since then, with the full weight of Miami’s defense bearing down on him, he has shot 8-for-35, including 0-for-12 Monday.
Naturally, Robinson would like to see the Bulls get Carlos Boozer and Marco Belinelli going early to shift some of the Heat’s defensive focus to them. Maybe that could open some seams for him, for Jimmy Butler and for Joakim Noah.
Because as it is, that wall the Bulls have their backs against has been built in part by them, brick by brick. They’re shooting 37.6 percent in the series. Chicago has taken 12 more shots than the Heat (298-286) yet has 29 fewer field goals (112-141).
The free-throw situation is equally illuminating. For all the grumbling and physical play, the Bulls are 81-for-107 from the line and the Heat are 81-for-105.
The biggest question for Miami as Game 5 approached was guard Dwyane Wade‘s availability. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade, hobbled by a bruised right knee, did fine in shootaround but that his participation would be a game-time decision.
Miami did sit Wade from the series finale against Milwaukee in the first round, giving him what wound up as eight days of rest before this series began. If he sits out Game 5 Wednesday and Miami were to win, Wade would have at least until Monday – a full week after Game 4 – and possibly until Wednesday before the East finals begin.
The Bulls finally look cooked, so complete this thought: If the Bulls get Derrick Rose back next year …
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com:… we’ll be talking about other guys’ injuries. Or Rose’s injuries other than his left anterior cruciate ligament. This wasn’t a case of one-and-done in Chicago this season – the Bulls have struggled with hurt and missing players for a while now. Rose only played 39 games in the post-lockout schedule of 2011-12. Luol Deng has missed all or parts of three playoff runs. Kirk Hinrich is a walking Ace bandage and Joakim Noah seemingly isn’t built for 82 games-at-35-minutes per. Coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t sweat the 2 1/2 hours he uses his guys on game nights because he expects them to be professional about body maintenance the other 21 1/2 hours. But something has to give, either in Thibodeau’s minutes distribution, in the trainer’s room or in Chicago’s new policy for 2013-14 of team-sponsored three-week sabbaticals for each starter, staggered from January through March.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Assuming Rose can dunk off his left foot by October, the Bulls are right back as a — maybe “the” — prime challenger to Miami in the East. Thibs will see to that.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: They will be an Eastern Conference contender. How can they not be? No way can they suffer a season like this again, not just with Rose out, but with the myriad of injuries and craziness (spinal tap gone wrong?). Jimmy Butler is only going to get better and Rose should — I say, should — be back for training camp primed for a huge seasons.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com:… they will open as the second-best team in the East. That’s with the assumption that he comes back healthy. It is impossible to make predictions without knowing the summer moves, and not just for Chicago, but there is still a lot to like about the Bulls moving forward. As much as Rose has come off like a drama queen as the saga dragged on, I don’t question his ability to make a major impact and make the Bulls better.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com:If? Ugh. They will a top-three team in the East. But they’re not necessarily better than Indiana if they can’t add some more depth. Thibs is going to be Thibs and ride his guys, but they need competent back-ups at the three and five spots to ease some of the burden on Luol Deng and Joakim Noah and keep those guys fresh throughout the season.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: If? If they get him back next year? Are you trying to start a riot in Chicago? The Bulls are definitely going to have the services of Derrick Rose next season and that will ensure their status as one of the top four teams in the East for the 2013-14 season, provided he and a few of his friends can stay healthy for the majority of the season. Rose knows that he owes Bulls fans a season they won’t forget, especially after the way things were handled this season. The epic grind they showed throughout this season and into the playoffs should be proof to Rose and his camp that there is plenty of talent around him to help win at the highest level. The assembly of said talent doesn’t guarantee anything, as we’ve seen in so many other cases (Los Angeles Lakers this season). But it does mean you have a chance to compete at the highest level. And that’s where these Bulls belong with a healthy Rose in the lineup.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com:… they become the second-best team in the East. In some ways losing Rose for this season could end up being a net-gain, as the other Bulls have all had chances to carry bigger loads and, in turn, mature and improve in ways that probably would have taken longer had Rose been dominating the ball and shouldering his usual load.
Davide Chinellato, NBA.com/italy:They will have a shot at the Heat. But they need to reshape their roster. I’d probably start using the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer, using the cap relief to bring another big man to Chi-town. Then I’d re-sign Marco Belinelli (he’s had a real good year) because he would form a terrific backcourt with Rose. And I’d see if there’s anything we can find that’d say why they had so many injuries — what caused them to break down physically — in the most important time of the year. [Davide Chinellato is the editor of NBA Italia (nba.com/italy)]
Eduardo Schell, NBA.com/spain:Who knows what the future holds for the Bulls. Maybe Rose playing again ends up as a setback for Krypto-Nate, Jimmy Butler (or others), who both have stepped up and performed well beyond expectations. With D-Rose, the Bulls’ playing style might change and there can be a big ‘ego’ problem. Again, who knows. Teammates, though they’ve claimed to understand, might even harbor some resentment for how Rose handled this postseason. There have been lots of talks during the season regarding Boozer and Deng so lets see how they come into play. Lets put it this way: adding pieces doesn’t always end up being a great result. But there’s an ancient Chinese saying: the most beautiful flowers blossom during the toughest times. [Eduardo Schell is the editor of NBA España (nba.com/spain)]
Selçuk Aytekin, NBA.com/turkey: Derrick Rose is one of the best basketball players on the planet. If a healthy D-Rose came to the Chicago Bulls or virtually any other team in NBA, that team would become a contender. I have questions about his current physical health, so hopefully he is 100 percent ready to play, as his doctor’s said. But, yes, if he’s back to full strength, the Bulls will be talking about the Larry O’Brien Trophy. [Selçuk Aytekin is the editor of NBA Turkiye (nba.com/turkey)]
CHICAGO – Symbolically at least, the changeover crew at the United Center should have left the hockey boards up for Game 3 of the Chicago Bulls’ Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat Friday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Given how significantly the intensity and physical play were dialed up for Game 2 in Miami – a 115-78 Heat victory that not only stuck the Bulls with the most lopsided loss in their NBA playoff history but punked them, too – the shift to Chicago’s home ice, er, court figures to ratchet up again.
“Because of the technicals and ejections, there might be a perception it’s going above and beyond basketball – it’s not,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You have two physical teams. Type A personalities.”
Two alpha dogs that don’t particularly like each other. “They don’t like us. We don’t like them,” LeBron James said. “We have to carry that same aggression, that same attitude into Game 3.”
The Bulls got worse than they gave in Game 2, from the scoreboard, from the stats sheet (pounded 56-18 in the paint, coughing up 28 points on 19 turnovers), from the referees (six technical fouls and ejections of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson) and from Miami in general in first strikes and aggressiveness. The Heat presumably won’t show up Friday night with Birdwoman – the snarling blonde matron who displayed her singular talent in Noah’s face – but they will have Birdman Andersen, as well as a roster full of defending champs and first-time ring seekers eager to meet their first serious road challenge of the postseason (Milwaukee, for two quick games in Round 1, was embarrassingly hospitable in every way).
Meanwhile, the Bulls — already undermanned without Luol Deng (illness), Kirk Hinrich (bruised calf) and Derrick Rose (knee rehab) – will have to calibrate their physical play; they don’t have the manpower to absorb needless ejections, technicals or personal fouls. They will, however, have crowd muscle in their packed, raucous arena.
For fans at the United Center, upraised middle fingers are part of the daily commute, so they’ll be antsy to up the ante or, at least, the decibels. And as far as that league-wide trend this season of Heat “hate” dissipating – in apparent appreciation of James’, Dwyane Wade‘s and other Heat players’ excellence, along with more folks in Miami garb infiltrating more buildings – let’s just say Chicagoans never got that memo.
It’s a potentially combustible mix: a road team determined to not get pushed around the way it did last time in the UC (the end of Miami’s 27-game winning streak), some cranky hosts ready to assert home court, a boisterous, Friday-night crowd primed to play some role in the series and three referees bringing fresh eyes to a pivotal contest toting two games’ worth of baggage.
Somewhere within that Chicago will have to find ways to protect the rim better – a 41-28 rebounding disparity and no blocks/few altered shots against the Heat’s heavy interior attack proved fatal, even before all the jawing and theatrics at ref Scott Foster and his crew.
“I don’t want to put it on the officials,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “If it doesn’t go your way, you can’t allow it to impact your next play. You can’t allow it to get you sidetracked so you don’t do your job. You have to have the ability to do your job all the time. You have to have great concentration.”
One area of concentration for Miami after Game 1 was Nate Robinson, the fireplug Chicago guard who was a reasonable Rose facsimile that night (27 points, nine assists, 10 free throws). Heavy defensive attention from James never was needed, but the Heat’s own point guards and other defenders made life more miserable for Robinson. He finished with 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting and four turnovers to two assists.
“They’re the world champions for a reason and they played like it,” Robinson said. “We just flat-out sucked.”
At the other end, Miami had to be please that it played fast, hit 3-point looks that clanged off in Game 1 and shook some extra rust off Wade, who scored eight of his 17 points in the decisive 30-15 third quarter. He shot 7-11, hitting his final six after a 1-for-5 start.
In personnel, the series grinds on as a mismatch – Miami boasting three of the top league’s top 20 players (and No. 1 overall), Chicago missing three guys from its preferred eight-man rotation. In intangibles, the Bulls do have the homecourt edge now, though United Center was where the Heat snuffed Chicago’s postseason in Game 5 of the 2012 East finals.
“It’s more than just not liking them,” Noah said. “It’s just two teams that want to win.”
So expect contact. Expect booing. Expect basketball. Expect whistles. Expect whining. Expect double-digit leads and comebacks. Expect single-finger salutes, too – right now the series stands 1-1-1.
If there’s any player participating in the Eastern Conference semifinal series between Chicago and Miami who could afford to lose 15 pounds in a week, it might be the Heat’s Chris Andersen. And even then only if it was all ink.
Instead, it was Bulls forward Luol Deng reporting that sudden weight loss — just one of the ill effects of his battle first with illness and then with complications of a spinal-tap procedure performed last week to rule out viral meningitis. Deng, a two-time All-Star, has not played since Game 5 of the first round against Brooklyn, his condition worsening and requiring multiple trips to the hospital after his body was found to be leaking spinal fluid from the initial diagnostic procedure.
He underwent a “blood patch” treatment to stop the leak but told reporters at the Bulls’ practice facility in north suburban Chicago that he had lost 15 pounds and still was suffering from headaches as his body heals from the ordeal. As Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald reported:
Deng appears to be on the mend, but his body is low on spinal fluid, which surrounds and helps protect the brain. There’s really no telling when he might be able to play basketball again.
“I wish whatever you take out, you could put it back in,” Deng said. “It’s just your body’s got to make the fluid back up. I’m doing everything I can. I’m staying hydrated. The biggest thing is, really, eating. I’ve got to try to get my appetite back and eat as much as I can.”
Coach Tom Thibodeau called Deng’s status day-to-day, but there’s no chance he’ll play in Friday’s Game 3 against Miami at the United Center. After that, the teams will get two days off before Game 4 on Monday, and even that seems unlikely for a return.
Not having Deng – an all-purpose player on whom Thibodeau leans more even than a healthy Derrick Rose – is just one of Chicago’s manpower problems. Rose remains out — despite countless rumors, criticism and backlash defenses — from the knee injury he suffered April 28, 2012. Rose’s replacement, Kirk Hinrich, had a second MRI exam on the calf bruise that has sidelined him since Game 4 vs. the Nets.
Then there was forward Taj Gibson, who was waiting to hear if the NBA would further penalize him after his ejection from Game 2 at Miami Wednesday. Gibson probably will be fined for his profane outburst at referee Scott Foster and slow departure from the court but it’s possible the league could suspend him for a game.
The Bulls’ suffered the worst playoff setback in franchise history at AmericanAirlines Arena Wednesday, falling 115-78 as the defending champion Heat pulled even at 1-1 in the best-of-seven series.
MIAMI – The Derrick Rose Watch is in its final hours, so all that huffing and puffing that the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat heaped onto Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series at AmericanAirlines Arena wasn’t all for naught.
It served to move Wednesday night closer to Thursday morning, which gets everything more quickly to Friday’s Game 3 tipoff, the point at which this long rehabilitative sideshow ends once and for all. Either the Bulls’ injured point guard goes for something Hollywood and steps through the darkness onto the court at United Center to a booming embrace … or he emerges again after another pregame shooting session in a suit and sits his way straight into the offseason.
Truly, it is now or it is never. There can be no middle ground.
The “never” part of that equation should have won six weeks ago but has shown itself to be a tough out. Months of daily talk shows and Twitter timelines keep alive the chatter of Rose coming back. This weekend will officially become 12 months after surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee.
The waiting game sucked most of the air out of the Bulls’ regular season – remember, the conventional wisdom suggested Rose would be back in late February or early March – and here it is, still laying claim to what at times has been a remarkable postseason precisely because of his absence.
But it all ends Friday night. Fortunately. (more…)
MIAMI – The Chicago Bulls were healthier and, back then, had the NBA’s newly named Most Valuable Player on their side. The Miami Heat were still a relative work in progress, talented and scary but also sorting and sifting near the end of Big 3, volume 1.
The Bulls whupped that crew by 21 points in the opener of the 2011 Eastern Conference championship series, held the home-court edge and looked for a couple days as if they were headed for the Finals.
Ahem. The Heat won the next four games, the first two by double digits each, the next in overtime, the last with a 19-4 rush over the final 3:36 to win by three.
The Miami team of postseason 2013 is more dangerous and highly evolved, with the league’s best player at the peak of his powers. Chicago is missing three guys (Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich) from its preferred eight- or nine-man rotation. So there really shouldn’t be a problem, should there?
Yes, the Heat dropped the opener of the teams’ East semifinals series Monday. But LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the rest have trailed in five of the 10 playoff series they have played since coming together in the summer of 2010. But they have roared back four times – three times last spring against Indiana, Boston and Oklahoma City. Only against Dallas in 2011 did they slip behind (3-2) and stay behind.
That should alleviate any hand-wringing about the here and now, right?
“We’ve been there,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Our experiences have taught us a lot of things, but that does nothing for us right now. We have to fight for our playoff lives.”
The challenge for the Heat on Tuesday, practicing in advance of Game 2, was to find the right line between unruffled and overreacting. Some considered the Bulls’ 93-86 Game 1 victory a wake-up call, a shock to their system, a shot across the Miami guys’ bows. Others felt the Heat played well, that too much was made of James’ facilitating first half (just two points scored) and that extreme adjustments would be the biggest mistake the defending champions could make at this point.
“When you lose a game, your ears seem to work better,” said forward Shane Battier of the team’s mood in practice. “You seem more open for adjustments and you see to tune up the effort a little more in the next game.”
Said James: “We executed, we missed shots, we had good looks. … It ain’t about X’s and O’s in this series. It’s about the will and determination to win the series. For both teams.”
That didn’t stop Spoelstra from immersing the Heat in a lengthy video session. But what it confirmed again and again was that they got a lot of good, even open shots that they simply did not knock down. By James count, six of Battier’s seven 3-pointers were wide open, as were three of Mike Miller‘s four. Combined they made only three of those 11.
That had more to do with the outcome in James’ view than his alleged lack of aggression. He scored 22 of his 24 points after halftime.
“My shooters have gotten us to this point. They’ve made shots over the season,” James said. “I’ve got trust in them. We still had a chance to win the game, no matter what I was doing in the first half or not.
Spoelstra, James and the others did see some breakdowns offensively in the game’s final minutes and an unacceptable brand of defense (35 points allowed) in the fourth quarter. When James and Wade attacked the rim, they looked more interested in avoiding Bulls center Joakim Noah as a shot-blocker than they did in forcing the issue physically. As a result, James got the foul line less often than his defender, Jimmy Butler and Wade didn’t shoot a free throw at all.
Still, Wade said, “There were a lot of encouraging things throughout the game. That was the kind of game where you’re not playing as good as you want to be, but good teams find a way to grind it out and get the win.”
Chicago played harder and got rewarded. The Bulls, if they’re smart, will remain on the run because they have manpower issues and a roster stretched thin by injuries. Hinrich (calf bruise) still was limping after their team meeting Tuesday at their downtown Miami hotel and said he’d had only marginal improvement from rest and treatment.
Deng (spinal tap complications) still was in Chicago, posting on social media a photo of himself in his hospital bed that was a mystery to some in the Bulls’ camp (was that taken during Game 7 vs. Brooklyn? Or Game 1 Monday?) The best option with the All-Star forward would seem to be patience until Game 3 at United Center or later. As for Rose, that remains a “no,” with the faintest hint of “you’re-kidding-right?”
So the Bulls will try to remain a moving target, with the Heat likely to challenge Noah, attack Butler and pressure Nate Robinson more. Obviously, they don’t want to be satisfied with getting one of two at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“We’ve played this team a lot so we know their tendencies pretty well. But every game of thes playoff series is chess,”Noah said. “We’re going to go back to the film room, see the things that we could have done better. … it almost becomes like you know their sets before they even run them.
“We’ve been in this situation before where we won Game 1 .We were all very, very excited about it. And they ran us over.”
MIAMI – As usual, the Chicago Bulls are undermanned, so they should have the Miami Heat precisely where they want them.
Only the Heat are wise to that game. As far as the defending champions are concerned, the Bulls not only have Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich available for Game 1 and each subsequent contest in their Eastern Conference semifinals series, they might as well have Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Norm Van Lier.
“We don’t play the personnel, we play the jerseys. We play the team,” Miami guard Dwyane Wade said, avoiding any discussion of specific absent Bulls players. “This team proved that no matter who’s in the lineup, they’re going to be competitive and they’re going to do the little things that’s going to give them the opportunity to win games.”
With Rose (knee surgery) a constant all seasons and Hinrich (bruised calf) a game-time decision, Deng is the most pressing and serious. The illness that led to his precautionary spinal tap led to a complication that sent him back to the hospital over the weekend. Deng’s plan, after the Bulls’ Game 7 first-round victory at Brooklyn Saturday, was to meet the Bulls in south Florida for the start of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
But he was not in Miami Monday for shootaround sessions and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he didn’t know if Deng would travel in time for Game 2 or await the series’ shift to Chicago.
That wasn’t anything that the Heat players were willing to engage.
“No change,” forward Chris Bosh said when asked about Deng. “It’s all the same. I’m tellin’ ya, that’s how you get beat. You think that just because Deng’s not playing, you look at the other guy and change your mindset. That’s when things start to go wrong. So we can all learn from Brooklyn’s mistake.”
With Deng, with Rose, with Hinrich, with whomever, Bosh said, Miami is approaching the series as if all Bulls are ready to hit the streets of Pamplona.
The All-Star power forward did watch Game 7 of Nets-Bulls, however, in which Chicago produced one of the great upsets in recent NBA playoff history. Star-laden teams never get the chance to know the exhilaration of giant-killing quite like that.
“Yeah. I mean, my days in Toronto I know what the underdog feels like but we never had a chance to win a playoff series or anything like that,” Bosh said. “Honestly, I don’t want to be in that position.
“It really just comes down to playing the game. You can’t really worry about who’s the underdog and who’s the favorite. If you sleep on those guys, if you think you just have to show up to win the game, you’re wrong. Chicago has a work ethic. They’re going to play together, they’re going to make it tough. And if you underestimate them, you will get beat.”
The Heat and the Bulls split their four meetings this season. Miami last played on April 28, and it’s eight-day layoff is the longest between series of its three-season run since Wade, Bosh and LeBron James joined forces in 2010.
MIAMI – So much of this NBA season for the Chicago Bulls, especially in these playoffs, has been about missing Derrick Rose.
Not anymore. At this point, it’s all about what Derrick Rose is missing.
The script officially flipped Saturday night when the Bulls pulled off their stunning, wholly unexpected Game 7 upset of the Brooklyn Nets. Rose was there but he was there in a suit again, no more a part of what really mattered in the arena than the guy wielding the T-shirt cannon.
Wait, that’s not quite right – Rose did play a role in making it remarkable with his very uninvolvement. The Bulls did not have their leader and their superstar, again, in circumstances that should have doomed them – and then they went about their business as they have all season. Or in Joakim Noah‘s case, with some frenzied, divine, determined intervention.
No Derrick? No problem. No problem too great, anyway.
A too-familiar sight: Chicago’s Derrick Rose cheering, not playing. (by Gary Dineen/NBAE)
Rose was in a suit and Kirk Hinrich was in a suit and Luol Deng was back home in Chicago, and still the Bulls beat the offensively gifted and favored Nets to advance to the playoffs’ second round. It was merely the latest in a season of highlight nights and indelible memories missed by Rose during his recovery from knee surgery last May.
He missed the victory in Miami in January in Chicago’s first meeting with the defending champions and assorted undermanned victories before and since. He missed the Bulls’ run of three straight overtime games in four nights, two on the road, two of which went their way. He missed the game at United Center in late March when the Heat, after stomping pretty much the rest of the league, had their winning streak stopped at 27 games (second-longest in NBA history) by a team, wow, still missing its star.
Because Rose and the team’s front office committed to a cautious approach to his rehab and return – the Bulls and their medical staff overseeing but ultimately empowering Rose and his advisers to make the decisions – the laconic icon hasn’t been a part of anything all season. Even as his absence has defined and made this season special for those who have been a part of it.
Now, Rose is missing this, at least four games and as many as seven against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest. It could have been a classic. Remember when Rose took his stand about not working his cell phone in the offseason and recruiting help by courting his competition, it came across as a direct response to the AAU buddy-ball brainstorming of James, Wade and Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010. Neither the Heat nor Rose was fully formed when the two sides met for the first time in the postseason in 2011, but the storyline now, with Rose’s very MVP-ness that year being questioned again, would have been must-see: Some guys want to play with the best, other guys want to beat the best.
The storyline, as is, is pretty compelling. It’s underdogs and Cinderella and, frankly, it’s sad. Because Rose is missing out on the full experience of what his Bulls teammates are. Guys like Rose never fully know what it feels like to be overlooked and underrated because, no matter how humble and unassuming they might be (and that’s no act with Rose), they are their teammates’ swagger. Stars like Rose don’t know what it’s like to have their chances dismissed. Stars like Rose look into fans’, friends’ and family eyes and see hope twinkling.
Maybe one time in the pros, before the end of Rose’s rookie year in 2009, he might seen doubt in people’s eyes. But then he had his coming-out party as a future NBA star, the seventh-seeded Bulls pushing the mighty Boston Celtics to seven games in the first round. Since then, Rose has been the man; when he plays and, without interruption for more than a year now, when he doesn’t.
In the end, Rose is missing a lot. Early in the Brooklyn series, Bulls forward Taj Gibson talked about Rose’s view and words from the bench. “He was just eager,” Gibson said. “He was just saying like, he can’t wait to get back, he can’t wait to play. And just critiquing the game, talking about what we needed to do, what kind of plays. He knew a lot of the sets coming out so he would just scream out plays. He was just hyped talking about good stuff.”
As frustrating as it is for Bulls and NBA fans to wonder what this Eastern Conference semifinal series might be like with Rose involved, as puzzled as they all are by his erring on the side of caution or his timidity or his whatever it is, they can assume that Rose is frustrated too. Or should be.
So don’t be disappointed by Derrick Rose. Be disappointed for him.