Derrick Rose: Pacers not a big rival
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter November 6, 2013 9:50PM
Updated: November 6, 2013 10:31PM
INDIANAPOLIS — Jimmy Butler is supposed to smack Lance Stephenson’s hand away repeatedly, then give him a slight shove.
Paul George is going to stare down the Bulls’ bench after hitting a jumper over Luol Deng’s outstretched arm.
That’s what happens in a heated rivalry.
Derrick Rose, however, still hasn’t received the memo.
Rose said Wednesday that he doesn’t consider Pacers-Bulls a rivalry. He acknowledged that it could reach that point as the season progresses, but it’s still Bulls-Heat, even though this latest game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse was played with postseason intensity.
“Oh, yeah, it could definitely change,’’ Rose said. “I didn’t mean anything [against the Pacers] by saying that. That’s how I felt. Like I said, they’re a great team. They have a great young nucleus just like we do.’’
Rose’s reasoning is that Indiana has changed faces the last few seasons, so there just isn’t that core disdain like there is for Miami. He’s definitely in the minority, however, because most of his teammates have insisted all season that the Pacers were neck-and-neck with the Heat in teams they love to beat.
Coach Tom Thibodeau has his own unique take.
“Well, they’re really good,’’ Thibodeau said when asked about the rivalry. “I don’t get wrapped up like you guys do in rivalries, but we have great respect for them. They’re really good, and what you usually need are two teams that are really good that are going head-to-head, and that’s what makes it interesting. I think everybody loves to see hard-fought competition, and that’s what it is.
“To me, there’s one champion, and that’s the Heat.’’
Noah getting closer
Joakim Noah admittedly still is playing catch-up, especially offensively, but he said he’s getting close.
Noah missed all but one preseason game with a strained groin, setting back his conditioning and timing.
But he was starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, especially with the contact he took in practice leading up to the pounding he took against the Pacers.
“There’s nothing that replicates playing in an NBA game,’’ Noah said. “No treadmill, running on the side, the bike. All of those things are great for conditioning. But there’s nothing that replicates that contact. We’re in the fire right now.
“I’m grinding every day. That’s all I can do. I’m working hard, trying to get better.’’