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Frenzy surrounding Derrick Rose’s back overshadows Bulls’ 121-115 win over Kings

Bulls guard Derrick Rose is sidelines as starting lineup is introduced before Chicago Bulls take SacramenKings Tuesday February 14 2012

Bulls guard Derrick Rose is on the sidelines as the starting lineup is introduced before the Chicago Bulls take on the Sacramento Kings Tuesday February 14, 2012 at the United Center. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 16, 2012 8:21AM



Reporters jockeyed for position around Derrick Rose’s empty locker, hoping to land an exclusive interview with his spasm­ing back muscles before Tuesday night’s game at the United Center. It was the latest sign that these Bulls have the potential to at least approach the level of hysteria that surrounded the team when Michael Jordan was collecting championships.

Rose’s aching back continued to dominate conversation a day after an MRI exam indicated he should not miss extended time. What’s curious is that the sky-is-falling angst in the air was more befitting Wrigley Field than the UC, which seemed odd on a night when the Bulls held on for a 121-115 win over the Sacramento Kings for their NBA-best 24th victory.

‘‘Right now, we’re just trying to stay positive,’’ Rose said before the game, grinning at the madness at the Madhouse. ‘‘We’re not in a bad position. We have a winning record.’’

Not only that, but the win means Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars in Orlando, Fla., on Feb.  26, which gave the Bulls plenty to joke about after the game.

‘‘I just hope he doesn’t have them doing defensive slides and closeouts during the All-Star game,’’ center Joakim Noah said. ‘‘I hope he takes it easy on those guys.’’

These Bulls are about more than Rose, as their 6-2 record without their superstar proves. Consider that Rose and free-agent acquisition Rip Hamilton have played only eight games together and that the Bulls have played more games and more road games than any other NBA team thus far.

On Tuesday, in the highest-scoring game the Bulls have played all season, it was the lineup of Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver, John Lucas III, Omer Asik and Luol Deng that brought the spark against a young Kings team that had won four of six.

Noah continues to play as well as he did before he was injured last season. He had a season-high 22 points, which included 8-for-9 from the foul line, and 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season. Deng added 23 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. Korver connected on 4 of 5 three-pointers and finished with 18 points. Carlos Boozer scored 16 and Gibson 15.

DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Kings, while Tyreke Evans added 27 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.

But Rose remained the focus, even while sitting in a special chair that supports his back on the bench.

Two misconceptions are circulating, the first involving Rose being the sole decision-maker as to when he does and doesn’t play. That process is more a group conversation than a singular demand.

‘‘It’s not just his decision,’’ Thibodeau said earlier Tuesday. ‘‘There are a lot of people weighing in on it. We have a great medical staff, a great training staff. Their input is critical. His input is critical.’’

The second misconception has Thibodeau ignoring the long view while focusing on collecting day-to-day victories. He has helped teams qualify for the postseason 15 times in his 21 years in the NBA. Even if his substitution patterns provoke frequent debates, he understands the big picture.

‘‘We want to play our best basketball at the end of the season, and we want to be as healthy as possible,’’ he said. ‘‘We never lose sight of that.’’



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