You either play injured or you stay on the bench-in a suit-long enough to become the villain.
The shadow of the Chicago’s fallen basketball hero is now completely covering the players who still have the ability to suit up on game day. It’s a shadow so dark that it partially covers up the amazing work of head coach Tom Thibodeau. The Bulls were never supposed to reach this point; this storyline wasn’t supposed to play out.
Somehow Thibs brought together a decimated roster during their first round series against the soulless Brooklyn Nets. The guy who stole the ‘06 slam dunk title from Andre Iguodala and a guy who is playing on his fourth team in six years, fused together and created a fearless backcourt duo that outplayed the $36 million-just for this season!- combination of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
Marco Belinelli wasn’t supposed to give us the $15K onion dance in Game 7. This team was supposed to finally fall apart, but Thibs teams don’t fall apart. They have to be dismembered and thrown into an incinerator. As long as they have the ability to breathe, they’re going to scratch and claw their way into a series. A puncher’s chance isn’t good enough for Doc Rivers former assistant; he wants people to believe his team has a chance to win even if the guy selling cotton candy is going to be the sixth man off of the bench.
That’s why it should have been no surprise when Joakim Noah took the best player in the series crown away from Deron Williams in Game 6 and then validated the notion with a monster Game 7. When a team plays with that much heart they’re always going to have a chance, especially when their opponent has been thrown together by dollar bills, instead of chemistry.
The team waiting for the Chicago Bulls was none other than the dreaded Miami Heat. There has been an overarching storyline with these two since the 2010-11 Eastern Conference Finals. That year, the MVP version of Derrick Rose gave the Bulls the status of a legitimate threat to the Heat’s hopes of bringing the first of many championships to South Beach during the Big Three era.
I bring this series up just so I have an excuse to post this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ZUqre4yBegThe Heat wore down the Bulls in Games 2-5, which at the time seemed like it wasn’t a big deal because it was exactly what the Heat were supposed to do. Looking back on it now it seems almost impossible to imagine a Tom Thibodeau team going down in four straight games.
Fast forward to their current series, maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised when the well-rested Heat dropped Game 1, at home, to the underhanded Bulls. After all, they were the only team in a two month span, during the regular season, to put together and execute the correct game plan against LeBron and co.
We definitely shouldn’t have been surprised in Game 2 when the Heat went on a 60-23 run during 20+ minutes of game time (from 3:27 left in the second quarter, to 8:27 left in the fourth). There was no way LeBron was going to play two mediocre games in a row. The best player of this era has too much damn pride to let any team steal the first two games at home, let alone this version of the Bulls.
So here we are. Two games into a series that the Bulls probably shouldn’t be in and they’re already playing with so much house money that a pit boss would have kicked them out by now. Now we enter the climax stage of the storyline that has arched over the Bulls for this entire season.
As soon as Adidas aired their commercial with Derrick Rose in a warm-up walking out to a standing ovation with the tagline, “The Return”, a clock begun to countdown the days until the announcer in the United Center would get the chance to yell out his name to a ridiculous ovation.
The twists and turns surrounding the availability of Rose has followed this team throughout the entire season. Once Rose was cleared to practice, with contact, people started to get antsy. The all-star break came and went without any real idea of what Rose’s return date could be. Numerous videos of the former MVP dunking before games, emerged on the internet and then on television. As the regular season passed, Rose’s return date was ominously never set, but the idea that he could come back at any time wasn’t squashed either. It was an odd situation that grew and grew.
Now we’re at the point of explosion.
As soon as the Bulls defeated the Nets in the final game of their first round series, Derrick Rose’s availability became the dominant talking point. Some fans saw the legitimate reasons as excuses. For example, if Luol Deng can deal with a botched spinal tap, Derrick Rose should be able come back after 375 days of rehab.
Here’s something to keep in mind: THOSE ISSUES ARE NOT RELATED! IT’S TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT PLAYERS DEALING WITH TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT SITUATIONS! EVERY PLAYER DEALS WITH INJURIES IN A DIFFERENT WAY.
Also, IT’S A FREAKING BOTCHED SPINAL TAP!
It’s been reported that Rose is physically ready to play, but mentally isn’t ready to set foot on the court, which is why it’s been rumored that he’s pushed his return date back to the first game of next season. It’s a totally legitimate thought process and shouldn’t be questioned, but the problem is the Bulls refuse to bow out of the playoffs. Now that the Heat are traveling up to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 of a throwback to the 80s series, which gives Rose the chance to have his return moment.
Sometimes things are too good to be true and in this case it probably is. These moments are the reason goosebumps exist. Could you imagine how loud the United Center would be if Rose’s name was announced before Game 3 Game 4 and he ran out onto the court high-fiving his teammates?
If Rose doesn’t come back during this stint against the Heat, there will be a group of people, perhaps a large one, that will always bring up this question, What if Derrick Rose had been mentally ready to play?
I have a better one for those people, Would it have really made a difference?
Remember we wouldn’t be getting a fresh Derrick Rose. He could be in the best physical shape of his life, but he might not want to set foot in the steel cage match that this series has become. What happens if Birdman, Birdman, shoves Rose to the ground and he immediately thinks, damnit I’m not ready for this. Why did I force myself into coming back?
There is only one person who knows if Derrick Rose is ready to play and that person is Derrick Rose. See, we as a sports culture are too demanding of the top stars of each respective sport. We demand greatness on a routine basis. You give us a great dunk or game winning shot and we’ll immediately think you can do that every time until you prove it was just random luck.
Look Rose is also partially to blame for this. If he would have just come out and said, I’m not coming back during the playoffs, the situation would have ended. Craig Sager would have been able to stop sending reports about the chances he could come back. There would have been no more anonymous sources sending out information on Rose’s mental state. The focus would have gone back to the players that are still healthy and contributing to this remarkable run.
Instead we’re much more interested in talking about why Derrick Rose won’t come back.
Why can’t we just be satisfied?
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