James knows Bulls, Rose frustration
You may still hate "The Decision," but perhaps now you can accept it.
To better understand LeBron James' desire to leave Cleveland, all you had to do was watch Derrick Rose drag himself off the court Tuesday night.
Soaked in blood, sweat and fears after Game 4, Rose was exhausted, dejected and defeated.
Worst of all, he was alone.
When it mattered most in the final minutes of regulation and in overtime, Rose was a man lost among the trees, knowing only he could save the Bulls' season.
"I can definitely relate," James said of Rose this week. "Having a coach of the year and being MVP and then having to go out against teams that have multiple guys that can break you down."
The Bulls had the executive of the year, the coach of the year and the MVP, but they still don't have -- even after spending scores of millions on Carlos Boozer -- a second option when the game is on the line, let alone a third like Miami.
So there was Rose lined up against a 6-foot-8, 255-pound linebacker with Tom Thibodeau picking that moment to isolate Rose on LeBron James.
Thibodeau's overuse of the high screen has really hurt the Bulls in this series, but on the most important plays of the season, when Rose needed that pick and for someone like Luol Deng to pop, Thibodeau abandoned it and left Rose alone to slay the monster.
Rose couldn't beat James and settled twice for step-backs that didn't fall.
Part of the problem is Rose is all used up, a result of too many minutes in meaningless regular-season games and too many minutes already in this series.
But when he's generally your only chance to win a game, Thibodeau has little choice but to ride his horse until he's cooked.
See where we're going here?
James has been down this road with Cleveland and it's why he took the one less traveled to South Beach, along with his talents, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
He reached the fork in the road and decided he wanted to win with help from great teammates in a new land, rather than lose by himself in his homeland.
He chose the disdain of a nation and winning over pats on the back from his hometown and falling short in the postseason.
Now, before you start scouring the kitchen for appropriately sharp utensils, this isn't a suggestion that Rose is already frustrated enough to leave Chicago.
But it's absolutely fair to remember that Rose is driven to win and be the best, and fair to wonder if he would wait forever to have it happen in Chicago any more than James would wait forever in Cleveland.
That's why LeBron signed a shorter contract for less money after his third season, giving the Cavs a chance to get it right but knowing he could become an unrestricted free agent following the 2010 season.
When he inked the deal in 2006, it gave Cleveland four more years and a total of seven to put a team around him. It never happened and Boston's big-three formula was proof enough for James that Miami was the place to be.
"That's the reason why we're playing together," Wade said. "After so many years of that you want to do something else."
At this point, it's impossible to imagine Rose ever leaving the Bulls or Chicago.
This is not a suggestion it will occur, and new CBA rules may alter his future options anyway.
It's probably never entered Rose's mind and maybe it never will, but James obviously began to wonder by the time his third NBA season concluded, when he signed that shorter extension.
And now James sees a younger version of himself in Rose, obviously not physically but in many other ways.
This year's MVP is carrying the weight of a franchise and the burden of his hometown on his shoulders.
He is tired, beat up and going to fall short of the one thing Rose truly desires: A title banner to hang in the UC next to all that Michael Jordan laundry in the rafters.
He won't feel complete as a player until that day comes, but as was the case with James in Cleveland, in the games that really matter Rose is forced to watch as teammates miss open shot after open shot, fail to rotate defensively, and stand hands on hips waiting for the savior to deliver.
Rose himself is so wiped out that he's also failing in crucial moments, and is no match physically for the beast that is LBJ.
While Rose watches Miami's Big Three succeed, the Bulls' situation looks very familiar to James.
And while it may be too early to serve as a warning to the Bulls, it should at least serve as a cautionary tale that without a Dwight Howard or some other monster talent to complement Rose, the local hero may someday seek greener pastures.
It may appear nonsense, sound absurd or look crazy right now.
But five years ago, that's precisely what they were saying in Cleveland.
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