By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) When it comes to the Chicago Bulls' championship hopes this coming season, there's no player more important to the franchise than Derrick Rose. That would be the case even if Carmelo Anthony were joining him in Chicago this fall.
Anthony won't be, of course. And according to Sun-Times writer Joe Cowley's revealing interview on Thursday with a surprisingly candid Rose, that's apparently just the way the Bulls star wanted it.
Even if the Bulls didn't.
After speaking with Rose this week about the long-rumored rift between his own camp and the Bulls, Cowley wrote that, "Tensions hit a peak when Rose, who has a five-year, $94.8 million contract, seemed to blatantly resist helping build the roster in a new NBA where stars increasingly double as recruiters. The latest example was the Bulls' pursuit of free agent Carmelo Anthony.
"Looking back, it's clear Rose wasn't all that interested in teaming with Anthony, who chose to return to the New York Knicks. Rose was much more aggressive in the Bulls' pursuit of free agent Pau Gasol, not only asking for the veteran's phone number, but giving a hard sell to the big man on joining the Bulls."
Beyond all the hubbub about the supposed sniping between Rose's handlers and the Bulls' brass – all of which Jerry Reinsdorf attempted to dismiss via statement Thursday night – what struck me as the most significant insight from the Sun-Times story was that Rose apparently isn't against recruiting.
Rather, it seems he was against recruiting Carmelo Anthony.
Which is why this divide on Anthony isn't necessarily a bad thing. If Gasol helps Rose actually thrive on the court, whereas Anthony may have instead made him chafe, potential trouble will be avoided.
With apologies to Jerry Krause, if the Bulls do end up winning a championship this season, it will be because of the players, not the franchise. And mainly it will be because Rose is good, healthy and comfortable.
If Rose isn't all three of those things, then the Bulls have little chance of winning it all, no matter what the rest of the roster does, no matter if Anthony was here or not.
I don't know exactly why Rose apparently didn't want Carmelo in a Bulls uniform, but if he truly believes that he isn't a guy with whom he'd mesh well on the court, then it probably is for the best that Anthony isn't a Bull.
And while I would've preferred to see the Bulls acquire Anthony over Gasol, I do have to acknowledge that Rose is hardly the only critic of Anthony's game. Others too had questions about exactly how well Anthony would have fit in with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau's system and defensive demands. Rose also has beaten Anthony head-to-head in four of five meetings since 2010, which may factor into his opinion of the Knicks star, as well.
I've never considered Rose to be a selfish player, but if he's now being selfish about who joins him on the court, I say, so be it. Because it looks to me like this episode is about Rose attempting to take ownership of his team and putting the Bulls' ball in his own court while embracing the expectations that will come with it. By effectively rejecting the addition of Anthony, he's now put even more pressure on himself to fully thrive as both a player and a leader this season.
It'll be interesting to see if he does. But if he can, to borrow from Rose's own words, it could be great.
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