Do the Bulls owe Dwight Howard a payback?


Dec 1

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The big intrigue around the Bulls Wednesday with the Orlando Magic here is whether big time free agent All-Star Carlos Boozer will make his long awaited debut after suffering a broken hand in training camp.

It’s been left up to Boozer with perhaps a 50/50 chance he starts, though as I wrote Tuesday I might be a little more cautious given he’s hardly practiced in two months. Yet, it might be a perfect time, less for the opponent that matching against perhaps the league’s softest power forward, Rashard Lewis.

Who’ll guard Lewis, though, is another issue.

But I’ve got a bigger concern coming into Wednesday’s game.

Is anyone going to do anything about Dwight Howard trying to injure Derrick Rose twice last season?

I know there was no flagrant fouls called, and everyone was nicey, nicey after the games with talk about just good, tough defense. Though Rose never would take the excuse way out and complain he was being targeted.

But that’s exactly what the Magic and Howard appeared to do three minutes into the Feb. 10th game, which basically ruined Rose’s All-Star weekend.

And though no one among the Bulls, including Rose, complained, my personal opinion was Howard went to take Rose out when Rose drove. Rose went up in the air and Howard, effectively, took his legs out from under him and Rose landed on his back from perhaps five feet in the air. Rose thumped to the floor and bounced, and spent All-Star weekend in Dallas getting treatment, canceling his defense of his Skills Challenge title and walking unsteadily through a few minutes of his first All-Star game.

It was worse treatment than Michael Jordan got in his alleged freezeout in his first All-Star game.

No one made much of it because Rose and then Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro didn’t cry foul. But Howard afterwards pretty much declared his prior intentions, first degree assault in my view, when he noted the Bulls Jan. 2 domination of Orlando.

“We wanted to come out and send a message because the last time we played them they beat us pretty bad and we didn’t like that,” Howard said after the game.

Everyone who’s played basketball at any level knows you don’t undercut someone, take out their legs when they are in the air. It’s different with someone who jumps as high as Rose, which no one has ever quite seen from a point guard. With Rose well into the air, Howard made hard contact, pushing forward into Rose, swiping at his arm and, effectively, taking him down while Rose was now unable to brace himself.

It was a horrific landing that could have ended Rose’s career.

How it wasn’t called a flagrant foul is shocking, and how no one from among the Bulls challenging it was disappointing.

And the next time the teams played, in Orlando March 11, Howard took out Rose again. More messages?

Now how does this happen in consecutive games when Howard basically hasn’t done it to anyone else all season?

Because the Magic want to send a message to the Bulls, who with Rose they see as a coming contender? Because the Magic knew no one from the Bulls would respond?

It was again in the first quarter, though not in the first three minutes like in February, and again Rose went out for the rest of the game. Rose would not play in the next four games and that was the period with Joakim Noah out with plantar fasciitis that the Bulls lost 10 straight and their season seemed lost.

And get this, to add insult and conceit to injury, Howard told reporters blithely after the game

he counseled Rose to jump with more balance when he drives.

How insulting is that? The guy takes you out twice and then blames you because you don’t land right. Only in the NBA. I’m surprised no one has used that defense in court after throwing someone out a window: “But judge, they just didn’t land right. They could easily have avoided dying.”

I’m not sure what you do about all this given Rose, still, cannot seem to get a star’s share of foul calls especially given he goes to the basket so much. And this season with Boozer out Rose even leads the NBA in field goal attempts. Yes, more than Kobe and Durant. But Rose is shooting a better percentage than both of them.

I don’t advocate violence, and you can only hurt your team with a suspension by doing something stupid. This is the kind of game, though, you wished Charles Oakley were still on the team. Yes, even at 46.

But this also is no longer big brother and little brother. With Boozer coming back for the Bulls and with Vince Carter now one-third man and two-thirds on the way down, the Bulls appear to me to have more talent than the Magic.

Look at that lineup around Howard: Lewis, a waif like three point shooting power forward; Quentin Richardson, still unable to be insured with perennial back problems; Jameer Nelson, who can get posterized by Earl Boykins. And the dunker formerly known as Vince Carter. With 25 percent three point shooting J.J. Redick second off the bench after Chris Duhon. This is supposed to be a championship team? They don’t have even one player close to being an All Star after Howard.

So it’s no time to defer to what the Magic did before. They’ve gone from the Finals to the conference finals and seem headed backward.

The Bulls seem on the way up.

Rose is always on the way up. The Bulls simply cannot let their star be abused that way. They have to play the Magic tough and physical to send their own message.

What do you think? Leave a comment below: