By Tim Baffoe--
(CBS) I had to laugh. Not in a soothing or refreshing way as though I heard a professional joke.
As Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman told media Wednesday that his call to Derrick Rose to inform him of a trade to the New York Knicks resulted in getting Rose's voicemail -- repeatedly and had been the case all this offseason -- I let slip a slow leak of choked giggling. It was the kind that comes with the brain wanting to cry and scream and release built up frustration but short circuits into maniacal laughter showing outwardly the opposite of the internal situation.
Icing your boss's calls is wrong, but it sure is sickly funny given the professional joke the Bulls have become. It put a fitting cap on the saga that was Rose and the Bulls these past few years, a story once so fruitful and turned so sadly sour. Between the breaking news of the trade swapping Rose, Justin Holiday and a 2017 second round pick for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant and the Forman press conference, there was that paralyzing of the senses that comes in the immediate aftermath of a breakup after a long relationship. And with someone who you used to think was "the one."
Then came the broken, sputtering laugh to keep from reacting more embarrassingly but still signifying that you're done with it all. It's time to let go.
Rose and the Bulls had become a coupling that was once storybook, but they cruelly experienced traumatic accidents that poisoned the affair forever. The fault lies in their stars and not their selves that Rose's pristine athleticism and body were permanently scarred, but blame creeps in regardless, and both sides just had to start looking across the awkward dinner table thinking "what if."
This split was then imminent. The Bulls front office didn't like Rose's rehab pace and attitude of self over team. Rose took offense that the team he grew up watching didn't seem concerned about him as a person. Meanwhile, the third parties that had to watch the two sides fight in public grew to loathe the two of them together.
So it's done. (Sigh.) That's probably a good thing. (Nods while staring at the floor.) The Bulls know it. Rose knows it. He's probably excited to go to New York, Forman assumed to mask his excitement of no longer having a Derrick Rose problem.
And I know that I know that I know it's probably a good thing … yet I have to keep reassuring myself of it. Such is the weirdness when an icon -- "the one" -- is no longer good for you and what you need to be the best you going forward.
It makes you quickly succumb to the temptation to call up Rose on YouTube highlights and rehash how good it used to be. Those old dunks and trick shots still make you laugh in that way one does because it's the only vocal way to process something amazing.
We're reminded of how those early chapters were the best years of both of your Bulls 21st century. Rose pulled you out from a really dark basketball place. Yeah, the 2000s are pretty well repressed terrible memories for us. Then Rose showed up out of nowhere in 2008 -- the Bulls weren't supposed to get that pick. And you two were championship poor, but you were pretty happy and having fun.
Then a knee tore and then the other knee tore and then a relationship tore. All the yesterdays no longer mattered, and the rest was sound and fury: Rose's loyalty to family, B.J. Armstrong as cold enabler, team suits showing how they were often at their own players' mercies, a supposed friction between the new star and former MVP. Rose's time in Chicago had become perpetual he said/he said.
There's a gang rape accusation against Rose still unresolved. It's the very opposite of the mild-mannered doting-dad reputation he had established but also another example of a famous athlete quickly getting benefit of doubt when it comes to violence against women. It's that athlete privilege of public verdict that falls somewhere between a woman deserving it, a powerful man deserving her and otherwise collective apathy and pushing aside.
There was nothing left to laugh about.
Now it's over, at a Rose age of 27 that feels ancient. And the Liberal Arts major in me wants to paint the tale of Rose's Chicago career as tragedy, but it's not.
Tragedies involve a protagonist making the wrong choices that directly lead to his or her demise. Rose never chose his catastrophic injuries -- the real culprits here and ones, mind you, that terminate most careers. He worked his way back to NBA shape each time -- maybe not in the preferred style of his bosses, whose own career biological clocks were ticking, and some fans and media who never really tried to or ever could consider what it's like to twice try to rebound from a career near-death experience. Rose's was a career, too, that was the exit ticket from a Chicago life that would have likely otherwise involved a lot of very literal death in his life. Ya know, genuine tragedy.
Tragedy isn't hometown hero becoming bane of fans because as the points and dunks dwindled he was perceived as selfish and didn't articulate his feelings satisfactorily and remember when he threw up gang signs in college that he cheated to get into? Or how dare he get political? Nah, that's not tragedy. That's just code. That's just America.
And with the climate of the Bulls right now and the same people running the show and the same conflicting personalities involved, I get the feeling that even a perpetually healthy Rose here would have met an end in Chicago that left a bad taste in our mouths. Maybe I'm silly and it all worked out and that Cleveland parade on Wednesday was also on Michigan Avenue, with Rose and Tom Thibodeau and some Weekend at Bernie's version of Luol Deng.
Yeah, I'm laughing. But I'm not enjoying it.
It's a laughter of relief at not having to deal with the Rose hate and prodding and shaming and terrible basketball hot takes and dog whistle ones and everything else tied to him. It's that the stale "Is he back to being Derrick Rose or not?" debate and how much is his looming free agency worth question get to be in New York now. It's honestly a weakness of relief that his civil rape trial in October that we forgot about is the Knicks' PR problem because I have no confidence the Bulls would talk about it appropriately.
So what is left to hate now? Forman said Wednesday they're not rebuilding -- they're retooling. Maybe that's GM-speak for never admitting a tear-down, but I don't see a tear-down. So what are the Bulls?
Not that free agent superstar Kevin Durant would ever come here, but what even half-assed possible pitch could the Bulls give to him? Talking to him right now would be obligatory but embarrassing.
That's what the status of the Bulls is at the moment and likely for a while. It's a willing purgatory where the front office thinks it can build around Hollywood Jimmy Butler while still competing, like installing new parts under the hood as the lemon cruises blindly down I-80.
All without a former icon in Derrick Rose to be the goat of it all when it inevitably doesn't work.
Like we're supposed to feel better today, but about what? A decent return on the trade of a player that represents an era of Bulls basketball and much more? OK. It should be sad or maddening.
But, really, I'm not even mad. I'm laughing.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.
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