By Dave Wischnowsky-
(CBS) On Wednesday morning, I spotted a guy walking through the West Loop proudly wearing a bright red Chicago Bulls T-shirt. On the backside, it also proudly bore both Derrick Rose’s name and jersey number.
So, hey, at least somebody in the city still likes the guy.
I kid … Well, sort of.
With Derrick Rose continuing to don a suit instead of a uniform, many Bulls fans in Chicago remain highly critical of the former MVP for sitting out the playoffs in May even though team doctors gave his surgically repaired knee the green light for game action way back in March.
On that topic, however, former Bull and current ESPN analyst Jay Williams told Washington Post columnist Mike Wise this week, “From a player that was in his position about nine years ago, I’m not trying to come back off a damn ACL and go against LeBron every night. Not my first game back. It’s a lose-lose scenario for me. You need to work out the kinks before then.”
Indeed you do. And as I wrote this past weekend, if there ever was a time for Rose to play this season, it certainly isn’t now in the boiling heat of battle with the Miami Heat. Nevertheless, on social media I continue to see fans calling for Rose’s return in Game 3 at the United Center on Friday.
Like Jay Williams, that thought makes zero sense to me.
But I also happen to think this: Playing without Derrick Rose in the playoffs could actually be a very good thing for the Bulls in the long run.
Now, I understand that it’s difficult to see that forest through these playoff trees while we’re in the midst of this chippy series with Miami, but the fact remains that the future of these Bulls still looms larger than the present.
With their historic rout on Wednesday, the Heat showed why they’re the defending champs and still the odds-on favorite to ultimately prevail against Chicago in this series. But what the Bulls’ players are learning without Rose (not to mention Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich) is how to compete against Miami on their own and also get into the heads of the Heat – even if it was the Heat who got into the Bulls’ heads last night by provoking six technical fouls and a pair of ejections.
After the game, Joakim Noah called the Bulls’ antics “Not being very Zen,” but I think fans should find some peace knowing that the team’s players are very much growing in stature and have an opportunity to grow mentally and emotionally on Friday by bouncing back from the 37-point drubbing in Game 2.
Before our eyes, the active Bulls are becoming more than just D-Rose’s supporting cast – they’re becoming actual players in their own right.
Before this postseason, I was convinced that in order to win an NBA championship, the Bulls needed another superstar-caliber player to accompany Derrick Rose. They very well still might need that for a ring, but with the way the short-handed Bulls battled against Brooklyn in the first round and how they stunned the Heat in Game 1 of this series, I have to admit that I’m now questioning my long-held assumption.
That’s because if the Heat know that the Bulls can beat them without Derrick Rose – and they do know that, having had both regular-season and postseason winning streaks snapped by Chicago this year – then it would serve to notice that Miami also has to wonder how it will handle the Bulls once their superstar returns.
And Rose will. It just won’t be in these playoffs.
Rose may still not have a superstar running mate once he does return, but perhaps what he will have is an entire team of guys who have permanently elevated their games and their confidence – because they had to thanks to his absence. And that collective growth just might end up being enough for Rose and the Bulls to ultimately top Miami in the future, if not now in the present.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.