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Turns out Derrick Rose didn’t deserve critics’ venom

Injured Bulls guard Derrick Rose takes break during his pregame workout before Chicago Bulls 99-89 loss PortlTrail Blazers Thursday March

Injured Bulls guard Derrick Rose takes a break during his pregame workout before the Chicago Bulls 99-89 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday March 21, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 5, 2013 6:37PM

Finally, an explanation. A reasonable one that should stop some of the Derrick Rose bashing, unless, of course, this is about spite and hardheadedness.

Remember those media reports describing the way Rose was ‘‘dominating’’ Bulls practices late last season? The reports citing unnamed sources who called him ‘‘the best player on the floor?’’ Everybody seemed to have ‘‘a guy’’ inside the Berto Center who had witnessed the domination. It turns out those sources were either uninformed or lacking in hoops acumen.

There was a reason why Rose looked so good as he went through rehab for a torn knee ligament and why he couldn’t make the last huge step to actual NBA games: an absence of double teams.

‘‘It’s not like game-like speed unless it’s training camp,’’ Rose said in a video on the team’s website. ‘‘. . . Game-like experience is totally different, where you’ve got strategies, you’ve got this and that and double teams. When I play [in games], I get double-teamed a lot.’’

In practice, ‘‘there weren’t many double teams,’’ he said. ‘‘I was able to go around freely, run around freely. . . . [But] I wasn’t able to take on that double team yet.’’

Why does this matter? Because his practice ‘‘domination,’’ and thus his perceived perfect health, was the foundation for every rip job that called the superstar soft or self-centered or both. Now we know why Rose sat out the entire season, if we didn’t before: He wasn’t ready. It wasn’t because he lacked respect for his teammates or because of the myriad other reasons his critics came up with as they tore into him.

Besides the lack of double teams in practice, there were other explanations for why Rose might have stood out. As the Bulls slogged through an 82-game season, he was the freshest player every time he stepped onto the court. And in the immortal words of Allen Iverson, ‘‘We talking about practice, not a game!’’ NBA players don’t try their hardest in practice. They preserve their bodies for the next game.

One player was putting everything into Bulls workouts late in the season, and it wasn’t Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng or anyone else on that battered roster. It was Derrick Rose.

And he wasn’t 100 percent.

‘‘Every day, I was working out like my leg was going to feel better,’’ he said. ‘‘I was pushing myself every day, eating right, just trying to take care of my body so that I could be out there as soon as possible. But it didn’t happen.’’

Yes, the video is a Bulls house production and, yes, it follows the company line. But that doesn’t mean it’s propaganda. Watch the video. There is no deceit in this kid.

If you won’t listen to his words, or if you’re allergic to the truth, then there’s not much that anyone can do.

‘‘When you have an injury like this, there are stages that you have to go through,’’ Rose said. ‘‘I’m still going through my stages. I’m not done yet. I think this is the most I ever worked on my craft and the most focused I’ve ever been in my NBA career.’’

The question that went unasked in the website interview — ‘‘If the team doctor cleared you to play, why didn’t you?’’ — is the one that will set off the conspiracy theorists like Fourth of July pyrotechnics. Take it from someone who has had to deal with these people: They’ll never believe what Rose says.

I’m not sure we’ve ever had clarity on just what the team doctor said about Rose’s fitness for games. The Bulls have had him under lock and key. But I am sure a doctor doesn’t have the definitive word on the subject. Only a player does. Somewhere along the way, it was snatched from Rose.

‘‘I’m not a selfish guy at all, but having this injury and knowing what I had to go through and being smart is something I had to be selfish with,’’ he said. ‘‘I couldn’t worry about anybody else but myself and my health.’’

Coaches and management types need to be saved from themselves. If they did want Rose to push himself in real games, they were wrong. But a 24-year-old showed us the right way to go. That way was slowly.

I can hear it already: ‘‘The Blackhawks’ Michal Handzus played the Stanley Cup Final with a broken wrist and a torn knee ligament!’’

Good for him. Now tell me something that has to do with the Bulls.

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