CHICAGO | Coach Tom Thibodeau says we're missing the real story.
It's not Derrick Rose's year-long absence and the daily guessing game as to his availability, if at all.
The real story is what Thibodeau's Bulls, never at full strength, have accomplished in 92 games with eight new faces that required name tags at media day.
They were a fifth seed, not eighth as most had projected late in the regular season. They beat Brooklyn in the first round and entered Friday night's Game 3 of the semifinals with Miami tied at 1-1.
Only Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler have played in all 92 games, seldom at 100 percent.
Why should Friday's medical report be any different?
Luol Deng (illness) and Kirk Hinrich (calf) were again inactive, taking with them 25 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists a game which the Bulls couldn't afford to lose.
I mean, grit and physicality will take you only so far against superior talent -- which the Heat have oozing from their stacked roster.
“From the outside, we knew (Rose) would be the big story. But on the inside, we knew from the beginning there was a good chance he would miss a good chunk of the season and the possibility of him missing the entire season,” Thibodeau said in the pre-game.
“The way we approached it, and it hasn't changed one bit from the beginning, is that the players that are available concentrate on your daily improvement, the next opponent we're playing, and get ready for the game.”
Thibodeau wasn't finished.
“Let Derrick handle his rehab and then hopefully at some point, whether it's next week or next year, rejoin us,” he said.
“But for the guys who are here, we've got to get it done with what we have and we have more than enough to win.”
Trouble is, Rose reportedly stopped doing his rehab weeks ago and the Bulls refuse to address that issue. The team hasn't quit, though. They keep coming at you, even if their shot isn't dropping, key rebounds are elusive and their players are hobbled and heaving.
“Joakim (Noah) is doing fine. He doesn't have the soreness and pain in his foot he had earlier in the year. Each game, better and better,” Thibodeau said. “Kirk is improving and that's a good sign. We're hopeful (for Game 4).”
Few are giving the Bulls any chance of winning this series, most likely to go six games. But you can bet on one thing. They will not go quietly.
In just the first half Friday, Noah and Chris "Birdman" Andersen had to be pulled apart after Andersen fouled Robinson on a drive, then landed squarely on him.
Minutes later, Bulls' backup center Nazr Mohammed was ejected after he fouled LeBron James, then pushed him to the floor.
“We have a team with a lot of pride. We know we're shorthanded. Our only chance is to do it with great intensity and we need everyone at their best,” Thibodeau had said before tipoff.
“One guy not fulfilling his responsibilities can break down the whole group.”
That's not unfair pressure or singling anyone out.
It's a key to survival for the real story to continue.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org