Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

No matter how this season turns up, these Chicago Bulls are turning up like roses

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No matter how this season turns up, these Chicago Bulls are turning up like roses
by rick olivares pic by lynne sladky

In an amazing Chicago Bulls’ run through the playoffs, the banged up Bulls, missing starters Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng, defeated the Heat.

Hinrich and Deng aren’t the only one hurting. Nate Robinson busted a lip when he fell to the floor requiring stitches. He returned to the floor and helped Chicago win on the road. Noah himself isn’t a hundred percent but he has been solid for Tom Thibodeau’s squad.

Yet one story that is stealing the headlines is about Derrick Rose. To be more precise, ‘is he playing or is he not’?

Bulls’ center Joakim Noah came to Rose’s defense in the aftermath of their Game One win over the Miami Heat in Florida. In a post-match interview with ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell, Noah said, “At the end of the day, it’s really funny how quick people are to judge. But people don’t know what it’s like to lead a team, especially after you tore your ACL. If you tore your ACL and you have to be the starting point guard and have the expectations 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 so unfair to him and 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.”

Much of the controversy arising from this is that the Chicago Bulls’ doctors cleared Rose to play last March. He has scrimmaged a bit but not dressed for games.

The Bulls aren’t figured to be in the title race. If Rose were there for the regular season where could have gotten his licks in, then maybe.

A knee injury of course is no joke. It can end a player’s career. For someone like Rose who theoretically is in his fifth season (he’s only played in four since he’s not suited up for a minute this season), he is too early in his career to be out of it physically. He would definitely like to play for a long time in the NBA.

There are players who have not been the same since suffering an injury. Penny Hardaway is one (he totally lost his explosiveness) and Grant Hill is another (although he changed his game albeit in a more effective manner).

At the time when Rose went down, within hours of each other, Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis of the New York Knicks also saw their seasons end prematurely for the same reason. Earlier, Jeremy Lin (then with the New York Knicks), the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chauncey Billups, and Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio also saw their seasons end with knee injuries.

Now let’s take a look at the injury list (those out with knee problems) this 2012-13 season:

Point guards: Rajon Rondo, Ramon Sessions, Russell Westbrook, and Nolan Smith.

Shooting guards: Lou Williams, Brandon Rush, Brandon Roy, Malcolm Lee, and Trevor Ariza.

Small forwards: Danilo Gallinari and Danny Granger.

Power forwards: Anthony Davis and Amare Stoudemire.

Centers: Anderson Varejao, Andrew Bynum, and Nene.

From the 2011-12 season up to the current one, there are a lot of point guards and shooting guards on that list. By far the most.

There are others who have come back successfully from knee injuries – to name a few, there’s Nene Hilario (although he went down against his year with a second knee injury), Jason Smith, Al Harrington, Al Jefferson, David West, Jamal Crawford, Corey Brewer, Bonzi Wells, and Kendrick Perkins. If you want to be a little more old school, there’s the patron saint for NBA comebacks in New York Knick Bernard King who ravaged his knee but came back to be an All-Star with the Washington Bullets in 1991.

This past season, in a match against the Orlando Magic in March, Shumpert heard a pop in his knee. Said the Georgia Tech alum: “I took a step to explode and go up to the rim and I felt it pop. Last time I felt it pop, I was out for eight months. I was nervous and more scared than anything.”

Flash forward to today May 8, 2013 in the Knicks’ second round Game Two against the Indiana Pacers, Shumpert flew in the lane for a tomahawk dunk (off a missed trey by teammate Chris Copeland).

Right now, I believe that Derrick Rose is healthy. The problem is mentally he is afraid of getting hurt.

After his own ACL injury, David West said, “I wanted to beat this thing. I wasn’t going to let anything get in my way. Tearing my ACL was not going to slow me down. I feel great now. You have to listen to your doctors and physical therapists. Don’t feel sorry for yourself. You have to attack your rehab and get yourself going. That’s the only way to be the player you used to be. It will happen.”

There’s also the possibility that Rose (who as much as he would like to play) is afraid of hurting his team’s chances. Chicago Bulls’ history shows when Michael Jordan came back during the 1994-95 season, he had less than 20 regular season games under his belt. He helped the Bulls advance past the first round but in the second round, it became apparent that he was still off his game as the Magic knocked Chicago out.

With MJ back for a full summer camp, he was not only physically in shape but also mentally. The following season remains the best regular season in NBA history as the Bulls went 72-10 before winning the Larry O’Brien trophy.

These Bulls aren’t the same. On this current team, how many can you say are going to be bonafide Hall of Famers? None yet. That Chicago team also had Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.

This current Bulls team is a Windy City type of team – tough, resilient, blue collar, and well, let’s say it again – tough.

Sometimes, superstar or no superstar, that scrappiness will go a long long way. It would be nice to have Derrick Rose back in uniform. It would be even better to see him flash into that lane for a death-defying dunk, take a hit then finish. Then you’d know he’s back.

This situation is a football coach asking his best players to step up for a penalty shootout. You only get those who are willing to take that spot kick. Nothing like being mentally confident.

Recent NBA history has shown players being able to make that comeback from an ACL injury become even better. I’m willing to put this in the back of my mind because right now, it’s all about Chicago trying to get past Miami. Depleted line up or not.

And boy, what a story it is.

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