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Drama surrounding Derrick Rose has contributed to Bulls’ tailspin

Injured Bulls guard Derrick Rose dunks ball early during his pre-game workout before Chicago Bulls host Philadelphi76ers Thursday February 28

Injured Bulls guard Derrick Rose dunks the ball early on during his pre-game workout before the Chicago Bulls host the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday February 28, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 11, 2013 8:37PM



Until 2½ weeks ago, I thought the most confusing thing in life was what women see in Hugh Hefner. But then the Derrick Rose situation boiled up, and now I’m not so sure anymore.

What I am sure about is that the Bulls started playing their worst basketball of the season when everything got fuzzy concerning Rose’s near future.

All the denials in the world from the coach and the players won’t change what I’m seeing: a team that has had it with the drama. A team demoralized by the will-he, won’t-he circus. Since Feb. 12, when Rose said he was “far away” from being back to normal physically, the Bulls have gone 3-4. They are 5-8 in February. Going into the month, they were 28-17.

Before February began, the players had been operating under the assumption that things were coming along nicely in the Triumphant Return department. Then the mixed signals started flying like arrows in “Braveheart.’’

Let’s review, shall we?

In the Feb. 12 edition of USA Today, Rose said he would not ­return to action until his health was “110 percent’’ and that he wasn’t near that impossible standard. OK, fine. Made sense. The guy tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the spring, and it takes time to recover from that. Ten months removed from a major injury is nothing. The newspaper interview looked to be as orchestrated as a marching band routine, but it really doesn’t matter who was driving it — Rose, Adidas, his agent or a combination effort.

The next day, Rose met with Chicago reporters and said that he couldn’t dunk off the run and that if he felt he wasn’t progressing, “I don’t mind missing this year.’’ Again, fine. Sounded consistent. This was going to take awhile. Got it. We’d all move on, and if Rose didn’t come back until next season, so be it. Better that he got healthy than risk further injury in a season that was going very far.

On Feb. 18, Rose took part in a full five-on-five scrimmage for the first time with the Bulls. What ­happened to the doom and gloom?

Then Reggie Rose, Derrick’s brother, protector and one-man incendiary device, went off in an interview with ESPNChicago.com, saying the Bulls hadn’t put enough talent around their star point guard and that they were not in the same category, talent-wise, as the defending champion Heat. I ­happened to agree with him, but it was a bizarre outburst ­nonetheless.

If you were looking at all of this from the outside, as almost all of us were, what did it add up to? To Rose not coming back any time soon, if ever, this season.

And I thought: Good for Derrick Rose. The smart, mature thing is to get as close to 100 percent as possible and come back when body and mind are in the right place. If the idea is to win a championship, be ready for next season and hope the Bulls do something to get another star in the lineup.

So, we were all agreed, right? The show was over, nothing to see here, move along.

Yeah, well, no.

We were back to getting those daily Rose “updates” from coach Tom Thibodeau, which are more like ingrown toenails, both for him and for us. The same gravelly words tumbled from his mouth: “making progress’’ … “right where he should be’’ … “he’ll be back when he’s ready.’’

Thibodeau eventually would say Rose was “on schedule” and that “there was no timetable’’ for his return. Huh?

Over the weekend, an ­anonymous Bulls player told the Sun-Times, “He’s ready, man.’’

Then we saw footage of Rose dunking in stride before Sunday’s game in Oklahoma City, the one the Bulls lost by 30. It was a ginger dunk by his standards, and it didn’t seem to prove much other than he knew the cameras were on him. He didn’t look so ready, man. It added another layer of confusion to a situation that already had about 10 coats of the stuff.

I have a headache. So do the Bulls, who played better when they were under the impression Rose was coming back. Since Rose & Co. injected doubt into the ­equation, the Bulls have played without conviction.

Exactly what is going on here? It’s a question that has taken over a town and a team, and nobody is better for it. Not Rose, not the Bulls and certainly not us.



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