Chicago holds Derrick Rose jokes in contempt; we’re way past being bummed out by them. Social media can chuck it up all they’d like (it’s been going for two years guys, we all laughed some of us cried – let’s move on now) because the memes and witty one-liners go away, they aren’t permanent fixtures in Chicago’s memory banks unlike that MVP trophy in 2010. Clowning on Rose is an insignificant part of the space-time fabric. Don’t read this as if it’s meant to be defensive, or that Rose is immune to scrutiny or ridicule. Some of it, warranted (i.e. media meltdowns in regards to handling questions pertaining to the condition of his knees).
But the reason we need to talk about Rose before we echt discussion towards matters of how the Bulls fared in free agency, or whether or not Doug McDermott is a home-run, or if Nikola Mirotic is the next great Euro talent – we need to focus on the one individual that held the rest of the Chicago Bulls inconsequential without him, and may have been so with him the past two seasons, anyway.
The past is the past and this much we are certain of: the Bulls aren’t very pleasing to watch without Derrick. They do give maximum effort; they’re not short-changing any fans that pay good money to watch a game at the United Center. But while the Bulls try, try, and try again; without Rose not only are they displeasing to watch – they also hit a threshold on how limited they’re maximum potential is really fast come playoff time.
What’s so vital about Derrick this season in contrast to how vital he’s been every year he’s worn a Chicago Bulls uniform is how wide-open the Eastern Conference is in 2014-2015. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the odds-on-favorite to win an NBA title are listed by Vegas at 4/1, Chicago comes in a close second in the East at 10/1, followed by a distant Indiana at 20/1 and then Washington at 50/1 and so forth. It’s a two-horse race, a near unanimously recognized two-horse race, and it’s all thanks to LeBron James.
At this point you’d probably retort that Chicago’s championship aspirations have depended on Derrick’s health these past two seasons, haven’t they? Well, sure, but LeBron James leaving Miami is maybe the best thing that could of happened to Derrick Rose. Yes, LeBron’s got a lot of talent and potential surrounding him in Cleveland, but a lot of untried talent unexposed to the callousness towards failing to capture heightened expectations.
See, that’s what happened to LeBron and (often left forgotten) to the entire Miami team after their first finals defeat. They faced unrelenting backlash and scorning, which in turn thickened the Heat’s identity. Whether Derrick was healthy or not these past two seasons, Miami looked impenetrable in mind and in spirit – they weren’t to be broken even if Chicago’s humble ankle-breaker managed to stay on the court. The Heat over their back-to-back championship runs looked vulnerable, truly vulnerable, what? Five games, max?
But now, now everything has altered in seismic proportions with LeBron leaving Miami. Had LeBron stayed with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? That team would have clearly been the best team in the East by a wide margin this season. The title would have been Miami’s to lose – and say what you want about how Miami looked in the finals and elect to dismiss just how mind-bogglingly stellar the Spurs played. Go ahead.
Derrick would have needed enormous help to get past Miami. Pau Gasol, Nikola Miroic, and Doug McDermott weren’t cuttin’ it if Miami stayed together. But with LeBron re-shifting the NBA’s anatomy completely, Chicago’s championship window has never been more open.
All of a sudden, the Bulls’ offseason additions are more crème de la crème than chop liver. But over and above all else, of course winning championships relies on Derrick’s health. That’s why this season, just getting to the postseason with Rose is more important than climbing to an Eastern Conference Finals rematch against Miami the past two years would have been because of him. It’s Chicago’s or Cleveland’s for the taking now.
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