The Chicago Bulls limped their way to the second round of the NBA playoffs with an impressive Game 7 victory over the Brooklyn Nets. The Bulls’ “Mash” unit depleted what was remaining of their bench to beat the more talented Nets with their best and healthiest player sidelined with a bad case of the nerves.
The Bulls’ point guard, Derrick Rose, missed the regular season due to a gruesome knee injury he suffered in game one of the first round in the 2012 playoffs. The team finished that season with the best record in the league, owning a 62-win season making them a paper threat to the eventual champion Miami Heat.
Those hopes were hobbled as Rose fell to the floor in agonizing despair and a torn ACL — an injury that would require surgery and a season of rehabilitation.
This Bulls team is young, well coached, and hungry. Rose’s injury was a mere inconvenience and ceremonious setback.
The biggest question swirling around the windy city centered around the scrappy supporting cast. Did they have enough talent to go the distance with the NBA elite and wannabe eight-seeders looking to backdoor their way into the playoffs? Can they sustain it until their MVP return?
The Bulls pestered their way through the 82-game NBA marathon with 45 wins; at times looking elite-ish, yet always a player away.
Meanwhile Rose, star of the YouTube video series The Come Back, watched his battle from high above in his United Center luxury suite — not a place for a gym rat like the young guard.
By February. Rose was back with his team practicing. And on March 9, doctors cleared the two time All-star to return to the court where the scrimmages count. The buzz of Rose sightings was confirmed.
“I’m feeling good.” The former number one pick claimed. The Bulls needed the lift, as injuries and overachieving were plaguing the young team.
But, the now healthy Rose remained out of the lineup through March and April, changing shoot-around sweats for designer suites and a seat at the end of the bench at tip-off. Rose supporters were reluctant to criticize the Chicago native, and rightfully so: his reputation of heart and will exceeds his once-in-a generation talent.
Bulls head coach Tom Thiboideau got his tired horses out of the regular season with dull spears and a fifth seed in the playoffs. Yet, his star remained cleared to play and out of the lineup.
The United Center trauma center had one healthy starter on the roster. Carlos Boozer. Yes, The same Boozer that missed the first month of last season after tripping over his luggage in his home. The Bulls struggled while Rose sat.
The team’s All Star Center, Joakim Noah, suffered a plantar fasciitis tear in his foot. The flamboyant game-time decision played despite eye-watering pain. The two-time the national champion went from heroic liability early in their series with the Nets to the undisputed difference maker … while Rose sat.
Bulls Guard, Nate Robinson, unofficially became the first 5-foot-8 backup to the backup to ever single-handily win a triple-overtime playoff game in league history … while Rose sat.
Sources call Rose’s condition mental. Reiterating the guard’s claim that although he has been cleared to play, the trust that he can produce at the level for which he’s accustom is not there. Mortals call this familiar condition fear.
Rose is a MVP in the NBA. A league overly populated with quick, tall guys that can run and jump, and only separated by those that redefine greatness: Willis Reed in Game 7. Isaiah Thomas in Game 5. Micheal Jordan‘s “Pizza Gate”. Or, Joakim Noah’s Game 7 against the Nets. All selfless jesters in a “me-first culture” that sends the message of “whatever I have left belongs to my team and the goal.”
Rose suggest that it may take a full off-season to get over his fear of jumping off his left foot. Maybe he’s found that fear indeed has an expiration date. If he has, impatient Bulls fans and the road kill that have fallen off the Rose bandwagon will stand corrected.
Assuming that predicting the longevity of fear is still a mystery, Rose can no longer call himself and MVP, for his psychological mortality has been exposed.
Christopher Brown is a NBA writer for RantSports.com. Follow him Twitter @whatrockschris. Like him on Facebook