By Shawn Muller–

CHICAGO (CBS) I wish I could have just sat down at the computer today, typed in my thoughts about the Bulls 88-84 win over the Pacers in Game 3 of their opening round matchup–putting the Bulls up 3-0 in the series, and essentially wrapping up a birth in the second round–and called it a day.

I wish I were writing about Derrick Rose and his continued run of late-game heroics, like say, his driving layup with the clock winding down last night at Conseco Fieldhouse, that put the Bulls on top for good at 86-84. I should be talking about the Bulls remaining undefeated in the entire month of April, winning their 12th straight game, and their ability to keep it going, despite under-performing in the playoffs.

There are plenty of things I SHOULD be talking about, but instead, my mind keeps wandering back to the same thing over and over again, almost like a nightmare.

That thing is Indiana Pacers center, Jeff Foster.

Now, let me preface this by stating that I am not one to condone any type of violence. I think “thuggery” has no place in sports.

But I do think there is a time and a place for “sending a message” to an opposing team or player, when they continue to hard foul the star player of your team. They need to know that it will no longer be tolerated.

Someone on the Chicago Bulls needs to send this type of message to Jeff Foster.

In all three games in this series, Jeff Foster has made it a point to make Derrick Rose (and also his elbow to the head of Luol Deng last night) pay for driving to the lane. I would not have a problem with the actions of Jeff Foster if I felt he was actually trying to just make a play on the ball. But he isn’t. He is not just challenging shots in the lane, Foster is toeing the line between a simple hard foul, and flat out being a goon.

Anyone who has watched any of the three Bulls-Pacers games in this first-round series knows Foster should have been “t’d” up on several occasions.

Derrick Rose is about as calm as a person could ever wish to be on the basketball court and rarely does he get emotional. But even the calmest people in the world get angry. The two players first exchanged words in Game 1 when Foster rung Derrick by the neck after driving to the hoop. While Game 2 was a little less “tense” between the two, Thursday night, after yet another hard foul by Foster, you could see the frustration level beginning to rise to a level you rarely see out of Rose.

You could tell Derrick had had just about enough of Foster and his school-yard antics. But could you really blame him? Thankfully, Derrick let his cooler head prevail, and he stepped away from the situation after being separated from Foster by his Chicago teammates.

Rose knows that he is the straw that stirs the proverbial Bulls drink, and the team cannot afford to lose him by falling for Foster’s childish antics. And thank goodness he didn’t do something stupid enough to compromise his teams’ chances of winning.

But while it was refreshing to see the Bulls players refrain from stooping to the level of Jeff Foster by trying to retaliate, part of me would have liked to see someone step up and tell Jeff Foster, the Indiana Pacers, and the rest of the NBA, that if any of us feel that you are deliberately trying to take our star player out–or anyone else for that matter–you are going to pay the price.

You have to protect your best player.

If that means getting a technical foul…do it. If that means possible ejection from the game…do it. There is a big difference between going out there and being a hack for the sake of being a hack–a la Jeff Foster–and having your teammates’ back.

Part of me wants to blame the referees for letting Foster get away with what he has been getting away with, but if they don’t call anything, technically, there was no flagrant foul?

But the other part of me says, “Well if the refs aren’t going to do something about this, then I will take matters into my own hands.”

The Bulls know, the television announcers know and the people watching at home know, that Jeff Foster should have been called for at least one flagrant foul in this series (I am probably being too generous with that number), and could easily have been ejected for the elbow to Deng (and if you think it wasn’t intentional, you weren’t watching the same game as everyone else).

Hopefully, Chicago will close out the series tomorrow so we can move on from the Indiana Pacers, and start focusing our attention on the Atlanta Hawks or the Orlando Magic.

But if not, then I would hope the Bulls will make Jeff Foster play the rest of the series with his head on a swivel.

Do you agree with Shawn? Post your comments below.

Shawn Muller

Shawn Muller has lived in the great city of Chicago for 7 years. He is a 2002 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and, in October of 2010, Shawn received his certificate in radio broadcasting. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” every Thursday night at 8:30 P.M., at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24.