For Rose, it’s to play or not to play?


Dec 14

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Derrick Rose wants to play Wednesday in Toronto, which is no surprise as I speculated after Monday’s win over Indiana and the brutal fall Rose took late in the game.

Before the Bulls departed for Toronto Tuesday afternoon, Rose, though clearly aching, said he hoped to play and coach Tom Thibodeau said he’d play Rose if Rose feels well enough to play.

As I’ve written, the Bulls should not, though I am usually quite a bit down on the list among those who are consulted on such decisions. I suspect I may be just behind Benny the Bull.

I do know the Bulls would never let Rose play if he were not physically able.

But I’d rather with the two days off after the Raptors game see Rose get one game off equaling four days.

But that Rose wants to play also is what makes him the player he is.

It’s not so much that tough guy mentality. It’s more a true love for the game, for competition, for not letting his teammates down, even thanks for being in the NBA.

There’s a purity of motive with Rose you don’t find often in the NBA.

Sure, you hear this talk of wanting to win and all that. Everyone says it. Not nearly that many live it.

The mood was somewhat apprehensive in the Bulls locker room after Monday’s game, players kidding one another, which is routine, but you also sensed that uncertainty as Rose surrounded by reporters awaited the results of the X-rays n his wrist.

Rose said he assumed it was OK because no one told him it wasn’t, but you never say never until you certainly can.

As Rose chatted amiably though with a wince every now and then, he was talking about why he was playing with a few minutes left and a double digit lead. He wanted to finish it out, he said. He felt it important to make sure of the win.

Winning truly does matter to the kid, just as much as the participation. He truly loves it.

And not for the 24.7 scoring average, fourth in the NBA, the 8.3 assists ninth overall and 4.4 rebounds tied for third among point guards.

I happened to be talking on the edge of the court with one of the assistants before a game the other night when Rose came back out maybe an hour before the game to do some shooting.

Rose is eminently approachable and casually friendly, not trying to be noticed or seeking to be ignored. He acts less special than any star I’ve been around, so he just stopped for some small talk and asked how things were going.

I offered I was looking forward to the game and Rose said how lucky he felt to be a player in the NBA.

“Can you believe this?” he asked, looking around at the fillup up United Center and shaking his head. “To be in the NBA and playing these games? In front of all these people? It’s great.”

Sometimes he just stuns you, not so much with naïveté but earthy sincerity. He loves to play.

So when he tries to climb up over Brandon Rush with a minute or so left in the game and almost breaks his wrist it’s just another play. He doesn’t think about getting out. It’s how little time is left and how much he can do until then.

Some of my favorite plays by Rose this season haven’t been the spectacular moves and dunks and drives, but the moments when nothing is working and no one is doing anything that he just wills himself to the basket or goes over everyone for a rebound, like he did going over Pau Gasol in the first quarter against the Lakers when they were about to blow out the Bulls last week. It’s that feeling you had as a kid if you were any kind of competitor that you had to do something to change this, and Rose does it routinely against the best players in the world.

Though that play with Rush also got me thinking again on the way the game has gotten skewed by flopping and jumping in front of someone as if that is defense.

Rose clearly beat his defender, T.J. Ford, on the perimeter, which is not to say the defense shouldn’t help. But in this era of the NBA, it’s somehow become accepted for players to run in front of someone, and in Rose’s case as he was in the air.

Anyone from the playground knows the cardinal sin is undercutting someone in going up.

It doesn’t occur as much with most players because they cannot jump like Rose does.

I know last season when Dwight Howard took out Rose twice, Howard counseled Rose, I thought patronizingly, that Rose needed to be more careful when he went airborne.

Rush stepped out into the offensive charge defense, but as Rose went up in the air, Rush also pushed out his chest toward Rose. Rush’s shoulder by that time went into Rose’s body just below Rose’s waist. It’s not the classic undercut, but it is for a leaper like Rose. He had to go down hard like that.

My longtime complaint is running across the court to stand in front of someone is not defense. Also, as a guy is up in the air, you do not bump him like that. I doubt Rush was trying to hurt Rose in any way, so it may lead to Rose being a bit more cautious rising in traffic.

Though that’s also not who he is. Just as it’s not him to say he cannot play if he thinks there’s any chance.

I would on one level like to see the Bulls play the Raptors without him. Toronto is a miserable defensive team, small and selfish on offense.

They’re 29th in shooting defense and in the bottom third in assists and points surrendered. They are a hodge podge of a roster with a center, Andrea Bargnani, who shoots threes and poor rebounding since Reggie Evans was hurt. This kind of team will remind C.J. Watson of being in Golden State. You’ll remember, he had a huge game against wide open Denver last month.

Though defensive assignments could get tricky as hardly anyone on Toronto plays inside the three point line, Carlos Boozer should have an easy time of it. It would also be problematic for Joakim Noah, whom as I mentioned in my post game column after the Pacers game Monday is suffering from his own hand problems. Noah has a thumb injury and the team is evaluating it and he’ll likely be reexamined back in Chicago Thursday. Though, like Rose, he’s said he plans to play Wednesday.

The Raptors, 9-16, nevertheless, have some good wins, over the Celtics, Magic and Oklahoma City. In other words, the blind squirrel can find an acorn on occasion and make shots.

So it’s a good opportunity to give Rose a breather, not that he’d want it. Heck, it would undoubtedly depress him. All he wants to do is play with his friends.

I’ve heard teammates saying after Rose has had big games of Rose being concerned and asking what he could do to get Boozer going better or Bogans or Brewer.

The Bulls have a rare gem. I’d hate to see it develop any inclusions.

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