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LeBron James poses formidable obstacle for Derrick Rose to conquer

CHICAGO IL - MAY 26:  Derrick Rose #1 Chicago Bulls drives for shot attempt against LeBrJames #6 Miami HeGame

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 26: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls drives for a shot attempt against LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 26, 2011 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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Updated: December 28, 2013 2:31AM



Numbers are great. All-Star Games, postseason awards, shoe commercials, all of it.

But championships are what
really validate things.

So when Bulls standout Derrick Rose was asked Monday just how good Miami Heat star LeBron James — a four-time NBA most valuable player and a two-time NBA champion — really is, it took a little prodding to reach a definitive answer.

‘‘He’s one of the best in the league,’’ Rose said. ‘‘His size, the way he passes the ball, he’s just an overall dangerous player. And [Tuesday], we’ve just got to make sure we stick him as a team.’’

When then asked if ‘‘one of the best’’ meant the best, Rose replied: ‘‘You can call it the best. He won a championship. He’s got two under him, so, for sure, he’s the best.’’

Rose had a different answer in July, when CNN asked him who he thought was the best player in the NBA.

‘‘Derrick Rose,’’ he replied.

Obviously, Rose’s opinion has changed in the last few months. Or maybe it was just gamesmanship on the eve of the Bulls’ regular-season opener against the Heat in Miami.

Either way, all eyes Tuesday will be on James and Rose. Just don’t let Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau know that.

‘‘It’s not about Derrick and Le-
Bron,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘It’s about the Heat and the Bulls. It’s a team game. We expect [Rose] to do the right things.’’

Rose, 25, has accomplished a lot early in his career, but a championship ring has eluded him — and James is a big reason why. The Heat has bounced the Bulls from the playoffs twice in the last three seasons, including in the Eastern Conference finals in 2011.

And Rose has been playing second fiddle to James off the court, too. In early October, the NBA announced its top-selling jerseys worldwide. James ranked first and Rose second. Also this month, James replaced Rose as the cover boy of the popular NBA2K video game.

‘‘No, no, not bitter at all,’’ a laughing Rose said when asked last week about losing the cover of a game he still plays. ‘‘He won the championship, so he deserves to get every cover.’’

But that doesn’t mean Rose isn’t looking to get that cover back, and the easiest way to do it is to win the championship. Even after missing all of last season as he recovered from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Rose said he feels there is something special about this season.

‘‘For sure,’’ Rose said when asked if this was the best roster he has been a part of. ‘‘No disrespect to any of my old teammates, but it seems like we’re way more focused this year.’’

They’re going to need to be. Thrones aren’t just handed over. They need to be wrested away.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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