By Dan Bernstein–
A high-end Hollywood publicist could not have planned it any better for Derrick Rose and the Bulls.
In the final prime-time TV game for most of the nation before the lavish All-Star weekend, Rose’s career-best 42 points lead an authoritative win over the NBA’s best team.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich tosses rare bouquets of praise in Rose’s direction, providing the takeaway quote “He has taken a monster leap this year.” That’s one for the movie-trailer and the marquee on the theater façade.
Then, as any A-list star should be, Rose is whisked from the arena to a private jet, which zooms him to the glitter of Los Angeles for a series of media appearances and parties, the Skills Challenge and the finale of Sunday night’s game – where he will start for the Eastern Conference.
That’s how you do it, if you want people talking about you.
An NBA season that was all about the Miami Heat is, for now, about the Chicago Bulls. It takes time for the northeast-dominated media to catch on sometimes, and talk out west has focused on the drama of the Lakers and the highlights from Blake Griffin. Carmelo Anthony’s unease in Denver has continued to draw attention, too.
Just as the nightly grind of games pauses for the league’s annual bacchanal, Rose, his teammates and his first-year coach have made themselves a story from here on in.
Don’t take this, however, as a belief that a single game’s outcome has radically shifted any balance of power, or that a “statement” (ugh) victory over any opponent validates status among the NBA’s elite, whatever that means. Such thoughts are trite, manufactured and wrong.
Great win, even if the Spurs looked sluggish in their ninth consecutive road game on their annual Rodeo Trip. It was only the third time this season the Bulls have won every quarter of a game.
And it’s true that Tom Thibodeau gave Rose a rousing, individual, pre-game pep talk last night. He did so because he knows Rose must play like this in playoff games if the Bulls are going to get past the Celtics and the Heat, not because winning the game, in and of itself, would somehow make the Bulls better. Rose’s humility and unselfishness are fine qualities, but Thibs needs to know he can bring the killer out when needed most.
You just have to love the timing.
Charles Barkley, the most resonant preacher from TNT’s bully pulpit, had already said the night before that the Bulls “might be the best team in the East” upon Joakim Noah’s return from injury. He was effusive in his praise during and after the game.
Now, the NBA world gathers in a city of camera-flashes and velvet ropes. The next 60 hours will be a smash-cut montage of popping corks, squeaking sneakers and booming amps. Voices of DJs mix with the metallic snap-backs of the springloaded rims. Deep into the night, shiny dark cars disgorge tangles of suntanned legs, hair-extensions and expensive, silicone breasts. Ballers and entertainers converge, with each wanting to be the other.
As the festival rages, the spotlight begins to illuminate Derrick Rose more brightly than ever, whether he wants it or not.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s blogs here.
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