The Bulls are a team that on a nightly basis embodies the culture Tom Thibodeau has instilled in them: defensive principles executed rigorously. Never concede a game. Treat them all like playoff games. As a result, they have been in countless games they had no business competing in, and won a surprising percentage of them.
Luol Deng made his second straight All-Star Game. Joakim Noah improved, made his first All-Star Game, and is the frontrunner for NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Carlos Boozer has had his best year as a Bull.
Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli, truth be known, have been big upgrades from C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver. Jimmy Butler has been an upgrade in the rotation over Ronnie Brewer. For the rare stretches of good health he has had, Kirk Hinrich has been a stabilizing force. "Bench Mob II" would have been better than "Bench Mob I" if they weren't spending so much time in the starting lineup.
They just had to hold out until Derrick Rose came back.
And he's not going to. Not this year. That much is becoming clear. And frankly, if I were Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer, I would be feeling pretty burned right now.
These guys have absolutely gone to war on a nightly basis, kept their competitive edge, and tried to preserve a solid seed so that when Rose returned, they could step right back into the hunt for the East.
Yet after weeks of full speed practicing, Rose really seems content to pack it in on this season. I can't even believe I'm saying it, because the Derrick Rose we know has been a fierce competitor.
No one wants Rose to rush back. No one wants to subject him to ANY additional risk of injury. But we know at this point that he is not at risk. And for some reason, Rose doesn't want to play until he reaches 100% effectiveness, not 100% health.
I think he owes his team a little better.
But now we have reached the point where there simply isn't sufficient time for him to gradually ramp up his minutes to a full load by playoff time.
And if he can't get himself on the court for tonight's game against the Heat, as they bring their 27-game winning streak into the United Center... then it's clearly not happening this year.
At this point, the Bulls should make the rest of the season about getting as many minutes as possible for Jimmy Butler and Marquis Teague. Their development - and preserving the health of Deng and Noah - are now paramount.
Shut Kirk Hinrich down, too. He has been rickety all season, so let him get a start on healing up, training, and getting primed for next year.
We have now arrived at a place where if the Bulls are going to take the long view on Rose and not push him even a little bit to get out on the court, then they should look past this season on everything.
As Duke screamed as Drago was about to kill Apollo:
"Throw the damn towel!"