Rose can't be chicken of LeBron

April 03, 2012|By Jack M Silverstein, For RedEye

It was only a month ago that I decided to branch out from my usual Harold's Chicken on Milwaukee Avenue to seek out the others on a monthly basis. Since No. 1 is gone, I charted a course for Harold's No. 2, and though I like the idea of marching one-by-one through Chicago's fried chicken king, on Monday I skipped ahead to No. 45 to pay homage to the restaurant's wall-size Derrick Rose mural.

Painted in early 2011, the mural portrays Rose in uniform facing his franchise's retired jersey banners at the United Center over the caption "The Rising Star."

No kidding. Not long ago, Rose was an NBA youth whose team needed furious finishes to even sniff the postseason.

Now the Bulls are favorites, staring down the standings at the Heat, Magic, Celtics, and the rest of the conference.

And in their final 11 regular-season games, they play all of their likely East playoff opponents, with two games against New York, one each against Boston and Indiana, and two against the team's personal Pistons, the Miami Heat.

What makes Miami such a worthy obstacle for the Bulls is, curiously, the same element that makes me doubt the Heat's championship credentials: LeBron James, that imposing basketball mutant with arms stretching from South Beach to the Mag Mile.

Can Miami win a title if their MVP flakes in the fourth quarter? It's doubtful. And yet, for all of James' late-game offensive struggles, it was his defense on Rose in last year's playoffs, particularly in the fourth, that ended the Bulls season.

Every time I've watched these two men this year I've come away thinking, "LeBron can't do it late. And that is Rose's time!"

Yet even when James' head isn't all there, his ungodly arms remain.

The Bulls have now played 11 straight games without Rose, winning seven. Impressive, yes, but that won't work in the playoffs, not in the first two rounds and definitely not against Miami. LeBron is the mountain our star must scale.

What will the city say when we look back at the 2012 Bulls? My guess? Derrick rose.

Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. @ReadJack

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