After the Bulls stunned the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Monday, Joakim Noah fielded a question about how proud he was of his team, considering all they’ve been able to accomplish so far without the services of their All-Star and MVP point guard, Derrick Rose.
Noah wasn’t exactly pleased with the line of questioning, and used it as an opportunity to publicly defend his teammate for all of the grief he’s taken from both fans and media throughout this season — not entirely because Rose has yet to play a single game, but because he and the Bulls organization continue to say that he might, despite the lateness of the date on the calendar.
“If you tore your ACL and you have to be the starting point guard and have the expectations that Derrick has, then maybe you can judge, but everybody who hasn’t been in that situation before should really shut up because I feel like it’s just so unfair to him and to this team. We’re fighting, and everybody’s going to just s— on somebody who’s been giving so much to this organization. It’s crazy to me.”
There was more from Noah, who went on to praise Rose’s toughness in dealing with it all while trying to do his best to get ready for a return to the court, but you get the idea.
Again, the issue is not Rose’s readiness to play, or lack thereof, despite having been cleared publicly by the team’s medical staff, and despite the fact that Rose has been practicing with the team for two months. The frustration comes from the constant teasing from Tom Thibodeau, who said “we’ll see” in response to a question about whether Rose might play against the Heat, and from Rose himself, who says his return in these playoffs is “still up in the air.”
There would have been no harm or shame in the Bulls ruling Rose out for the playoffs before they began. It would have ended all the speculation, and by the way, he still could come back and play even after the team made such a declaration — look no further than David Lee’s brief appearance in the Warriors’ closeout game against the Nuggets, after the team said he’d be out for the entire postseason with a torn hip flexor muscle.
Unfortunately, the scrutiny surrounding Rose isn’t likely to stop at any point in the postseason as long as the Bulls are still alive. What’s been made clear by Noah’s comments, though, is that all criticism is coming from outside the organization. As far as the team is concerned — and this has been the case all along — they are fine with Rose’s situation, and will continue to have his back throughout this process.