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MVP Rose, Thibodeau, Taj’s dunk stand out in Bulls’ season

LeBrJames who knows whit’s like have carry team gives Derrick Rose hug after Game 5. | Mike Ehrmann~Getty Images

LeBron James, who knows what it’s like to have to carry a team, gives Derrick Rose a hug after Game 5. | Mike Ehrmann~Getty Images

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Updated: September 3, 2011 12:33AM

When the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, the King was in Derrick Rose’s face.

When the Heat closed out the Bulls on Thursday in Game 5, the King was in Rose’s ear.

LeBron James embraced Rose after the clock ticked its last tick and delivered a message to the boy who might someday be king.

James didn’t say what was discussed. But it’s obvious how James feels about Rose and what he’s gone through this season. After all, it was James who was worn down after spending seven years trying to carry the Cavaliers to a title, only to finally walk away and join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

‘‘I’ve been in situations where I say, why me at this point?’’ James said when asked if the loss would only help Rose get better. “But you have to keep working and be put in those positions time after time after time, where if you fail, you have to be ready to take that challenge again and again and again. D-Rose, he earned the MVP. He’s a great talent, unbelievable player. Chicago’s got a great . . . not only a great basketball player, but a great kid, too. What he’s done for this city and what he’s done for this franchise in just three years is remarkable.

“The sky is the limit for that guy. I mean, wow, as a fan, he’s going to get better and better. Hopefully, we don’t have to continue to see him in the postseason.’’

Just as he finished that sentence, Wade leaned over to James and said, “We will.’’

“Yeah, we will,’’ James said with a smile.

In what seemed like the lowest point of the Bulls’ 2010-11 season — the elimination — it was at the same time the highlight. It was James acknowledging that a star was born in Chicago this season, a star who’s only 22 years old, a star the entire city can embrace.

But while the kid from Englewood was the dominant story line from the Bulls’ season, there were lots of others:

The Good

The Legend of Thibs: The hiring of Tom Thibodeau from the Celtics’ bench was genius. He’s a perfect fit for Chicago’s defense-first mentality. More important, he knows how to get his players to buy into his style. They really seem to enjoy frustrating opposing offenses on a nightly basis.

Coming-Out Party: In a Dec. 10 game at the Madhouse on Madison, the rest of the league was served notice of Rose’s capabilities. The “MVP’’ chants were in full throat that night as he scored 29 points and handed out nine assists in a victory over the defending-champion Lakers.

Team to Beat: The Bulls won their last nine games of the regular season to lock down the top seed in the playoffs with a 62-20 record.

The Comeback: Down 10 in the fourth quarter against the Pacers in Game 1 of the first round, Rose helped lead a 16-1 charge down the stretch. He scored 39 points and made 19 of 21 free throws.

44: In a pivotal Game 3 against the Hawks in Atlanta, Rose had 44 points, seven assists, five rebounds and only two turnovers.

The Dunk: Taj Gibson over Wade in Game 1. ’Nuff said.

The Bad

The Booz: Carlos Boozer has a leaguewide reputation of being more fraud than substance, and he ended up being the consolation prize for the Bulls when they were left out of “The Decision’’ last summer. Now they’re stuck with a big contract and a player who showed little heart when it mattered most.

Say What? Joakim Noah scored one point in the Game 3 loss to the Heat, but TNT cameras caught him dropping a homosexual slur on a fan, which cost Noah a $50,000 fine.

Heat Wave: Sweeping the Heat in the regular season meant very little in May. The Heat ended the Bulls’ run in convincing fashion, winning four in a row after losing Game 1.

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