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Why is Derrick Rose held to a different standard than Jay Cutler?

Updated: April 23, 2013 9:56AM



NEW YORK — He comes out before the game, sits on the Bulls’ bench and starts to lace up his new Adidas D Rose 3.5s.

Derrick Rose is ever friendly, ever courteous, so you ask him, ‘‘When are you going to play?’’

He doesn’t say anything, just smiles. Not a happy smile. Not a sarcastic smile. But a smile that, if I’m reading it correctly, says: ‘‘I wish I knew.’’

‘‘How about those shoes?’’ you say, just for conversation. ‘‘They weigh, like, 12 ounces ?’’

‘‘Less than that, I think,’’ he replies, taking an unlaced shoe off his foot and handing it to you for inspection.

This is not an arrogant superstar, people, but it might be a confused one. Surely, it is.

Rose hasn’t played in almost a year since having surgery on his left knee, and he didn’t play in the Bulls’ 90-82 victory Monday against the Brooklyn Nets that evened their playoff series 1-1.

Could the Bulls use Rose? Could Noah — the one from the Bible, not the one on the Bulls — have used an animal trainer?

The Nets are a very beatable team. The Bulls beat them three times in four tries during the regular season. With their star point guard back and playing, who knows how good they could be?

‘‘Did you know that when Rose, [Luol] Deng, [Joakim] Noah and [Carlos] Boozer all play together, we win 86 percent of our games?’’ general manager Gar Forman says.

Now I do.

But that quartet almost never has been healthy together. Noah has plantar fasciitis that makes him look as though he is running on egg yolks as he hobbles up the floor. Other players are hurting, too.

But there is Rose, just watching the games.

How do you plan for injuries, you ask Forman.

‘‘I don’t know,’’ he says. ‘‘I don’t know.’’

One has to wonder how Rose’s waiting period would have been handled — he has been cleared to play and has been practicing for weeks, remember — if it were, say, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler doing the hesitation thing.

Let me answer myself by saying it would be a stone-cold disaster, maybe a fan and media insurrection or oil-frying.

If Cutler stood in street clothes on the Bears’ sideline during games after throwing tight, spiraling 30-yard out patterns to Brandon Marshall and bombs to Earl Bennett during warmups, he would be savaged by all.

He already was attacked by just about everybody for standing blank-faced on the sideline after injuring his knee in the first half of an NFC Championship Game loss to the Green Bay Packers in January 2011. And it was, indeed, an injury, despite the nasty tweets that doubted Cutler’s guts and duty.

The next season, Cutler suffered a broken thumb and finished the game with the injury before having season-ending surgery. And he got no credit for that whatsoever.

What’s the difference here in perspective? What’s the difference in the treatment of two players at the pinnacle of Chicago sports interest and scrutiny?

Clearly, it is fan favoritism and empathy. Rose is Chicago’s own, a sweet guy who will call just about anybody older than he is ‘‘sir’’ and is polite to a fault.

Cutler? He came from the Denver Broncos by way of Indiana and Vanderbilt, and a sneer often has seemed to be his best friend. No matter that the guy plays every game while battling Type 1 diabetes, a brutal thing in itself, or that he gets smeared by huge, angry defensive linemen whenever there is a major breakdown. Oddly, there isn’t much sympathy for him.

But D-Rose? Everyone loves him — and rightly so — but the warm feeling is starting to fray as his hesitance to return continues. Rose has admitted he just doesn’t ‘‘feel’’ right yet. He has acknowledged his reluctance to play is mental, not physical.

As far as we know, his surgery went fine and there were no glitches. So his refusal to play is personal, not due to bad science.

As Bulls announcer Stacey King notes, Rose has seen similarly injured NBA players Iman Shumpert and Ricky Rubio come back from their surgeries and not play very well.

‘‘But I’ll tell you this,’’ King says. ‘‘It’s killing him not to play.’’

And yet he seems able to. Forget the fact these are the playoffs and he hasn’t played all season.

If this series goes on, he could get in there for a few minutes and relearn on the fly. It could make a difference.

And remind him how lucky he is not to be Jay Cutler.



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