By Sam Zuba-
(CBS) The drill is the same, the night is different.
Derrick Rose stands in front of his locker amidst a sea of cameras and microphones. Each reporter has the same question in mind.
The record has been broken for months now, but still, the group can’t resist.
“What about Dwight Howard?”
Rose knows the logic behind the question. He’s not stupid and he’s certainly not oblivious.
A few doors down rests the player that could take his franchise to the next level. Howard wants out of Orlando, and the Bulls are one super star, one big man, away from bringing multiple championship rings back to Chicago.
The pairing of the greatest point guard and center almost makes too much sense.
Rose doesn’t care, though. It’s not his style to beg. He’s not going to plead. He’s not going to campaign. That’s not the player he is.
He keeps one eye on the TV replaying film for the evening’s game against the Magic as he mindlessly answers the slew of questions about the game’s youngest and most-talented center.
When asked of the possibility of teaming up with Howard, Rose says all the right things.
“I’m cool with the teammates that I have,” he says. “We have a winning record. It’s not like we need to change anything, but it’s not up to me. It’s up to the front office. If they make a decision, it’s up to them.
“I just try to live my life. If it’s not about the Bulls, I really couldn’t care less.”
The problem with all of this is the dichotomy between where Rose thinks the Bulls are, and where the team actually is.
Right now, the Bulls are a great regular-season team that will likely fall, once again, to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
It’s basketball hell. Ask the New York Knicks and Utah Jazz of the 90s what that feels like.
Still, the reigning MVP isn’t going to lose his confidence. He can’t. He’s the backbone, the heart of his team.
The fascinating part, however, is he believes what he’s saying. It’s not just lip-service to his teammates.
Rose believes in the 12 other men who wear black and red each night. And 42 games into the season, he still doesn’t think he’s seen the best of what the Bulls can be.
“We really don’t know,” Rose admits. “Joakim (Noah) and (Carlos) Boozer are playing great right now. Joakim’s confidence is definitely high right now with the way he’s playing. He’s scoring the ball. We already know defensively he’s up there rebounding. And, we don’t even have Rip (Hamilton) yet. … We just have to wait and see. We know we can be pretty good.”
Before Rose faced Howard, the player who has knocked him out of two separate games in career, he was asked if he was intimated by the 6-11 center.
“No,” he said. “This is the game of basketball. If you’re scared, then you shouldn’t be playing this game.”
And that’s the attitude Rose carries. He’s not afraid.
So, if March 15 passes and the Bulls remain Howard-less, Rose’s attitude isn’t changing.
For better or for worse.
Through thick and thin.
In heaven or hell.
Sam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com. Before earning a degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, he spent two summers covering the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago Cubs for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SamZuba and read more of his columns here.