By Dave Wischnowsky–

CHICAGO (CBS) The Chicago Bulls wanted him. The Windy City wanted him. And, apparently, even Derrick Rose wanted him.

(Contrary to all those rumors.)

But, you know what, I’m glad Chicago didn’t get LeBron James.

Basketball has just been more satisfying without the guy.

Now, I’m fully aware that I could live to eat those words in a few weeks – or, heck, days – if the Heat happen to outlast the Bulls in this year’s NBA Playoffs. But, regardless of how this postseason turns out, I’m comfortable with my statement. That’s because if LeBron James had signed with Chicago last summer, as many surmised he would, then we almost certainly wouldn’t have had the opportunity this season to watch Derrick Rose become DERRICK ROSE.

And, quite simply, that’s been something worth seeing.

Both now, and for the next decade-plus.

This past February, Sports Illustrated reported that last summer Rose sent James a text while LeBron was busy making his “decision” about where to sign as a free agent. Rose confirmed the report to Chicago media and recalled that his text to James read something along the lines of: “I’m just hitting you up to kill all the rumors that I don’t want to play with you. I’d like to play with you. I just want to win.”

If nothing else, we’ve learned this season that’s true. Derrick Rose does just want to win. And it’s been a pleasure watching his, dare I say, Jordanesque will – and ability to finish off opponents – fully emerge this season.

Last year, we knew Rose was really, really good. But after this season, we know he’s truly great. Now, no doubt, we would have still recognized that fact this year if LeBron had been running with the Bulls. But with Rose we also would have seen a different kind of great.

Think Scottie Pippen great vs. Michael Jordan great.

Because, if James had been playing at the United Center this season, it’s highly doubtful we would have gotten to see Rose develop in the same way that he has. In fact, there’s a good chance that Rose would have made LeBron this season’s NBA MVP, rather than having put together a likely MVP season himself.

Now, of course, watching Rose and James team up on the court would have been an incredible sight to behold. But, to be honest, after the egomaniacal and callous way in which James handled his free agency last summer, it was something of a relief when he told Jim Gray he was taking his talents to South Beach and not Chicago.
By then, I was already fed up with the guy.

And as much success as the Bulls would have surely enjoyed with a James-and-Rose combo, I’m perfectly fine with instead watching Chicago’s homegrown star mature into a championship-caliber leader on his own.

If the Bulls do win a championship (either this season or during another one down the line), I think it’ll likely feel more gratifying knowing that Rose led them there, and didn’t need LeBron there to do it with him.

Last month, Rose said that he didn’t begrudge James for spurning Chicago to instead sign with Miami.

“No, he’s his own person where he had the opportunity to make any choice he wanted to make,” Rose said. “You can’t blame a person for that so that’s the way I looked at it.”

And the way I look at it, James’ decision to join the Heat will allow us to watch Rose fully bloom and make his hometown increasingly proud for years to come.

We are all witnesses.

Thanks, LeBron.

Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.

Dave Wischnowsky

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.