Derrick Rose will likely not be the MVP this season for a lot of reasons. The first being that LeBron James is playing above and beyond the rest of the league at a level where no one's really coming close. The second being that Kevin Durant has led a very young team to progress at a championship-level pace, is increasingly unguardable, and more versatile than ever; and Chris Paul is the undeniable variable that mostly separates the 2011 Clippers from these of 2012. The third, that reigning MVPs are simply held to much higher standards by voters because giving that person the MVP is pretty much a ticket to the Hall of Fame; and they'll be apprehensive to hand out that ticket to a 23-year-old.
But national games against perennial contenders like the Spurs matter to voters. And dominant will-to-win effots, despite facing a defense coached by arguably the best in the game, Gregg Popovich, matter when those efforts are undeniably par for the course for that player.
Rose, like most of the highly aesthically pleasing players in NBA history, plays a game that has an acquired taste. But once acquired, the viewer almost feels lucky to have the privilege of -- not watching, but -- experiencing such a blend of ferocity with acrobatics and a competitive spirit along the lines of the most predatorial killers in all of athletics.
There's a consensus that Rose is among the top three, if not the greatest, point guard in the game. There's a consensus that he's among the most exciting athletes in all of sports. There's a consensus that he's a man beyond his years to take a dynasty franchise on his shoulders to never settle for less than a formula that doesn't just win today, but tomorrow, next week, a month from now, in June, and for years to come in the effort to add multiple banners to the United Center rafters.
In a 24-second news cycle culture, reminders are still of utmost value. And here was a small taste of Rose's affirmations of all of the superlatives:
The Bulls will likely not win the NBA Championship this year, but at the same time, if they do, it shouldn't surprise anyone for the same reasons they're viewed as contenders, as noted by Royce Young:
Smart basketball almost always wins. Almost. The Chicago formula has never been all that complicated. It's basically been grit things out, bottle you up offensively and hope No. 1 can carry the load just enough. It's worked a whole lot. The Bulls finished with the best record in the East last season and with Wednesday's 96-89 win, they're 28-8.
The game showcased what makes Rose one of the toughest, most competitive winners in the league. He banged knees with Tony Parker in the first half and writhed on the ground in pain. No bother for the MVP, who checked back in and went to work. He would've had a decent excuse had he faded late in the game -- bad back, bruised knee, toe issues -- but Rose instead finished strong. He started the game 6-15 from the floor. He hit four of final eight attempts, including a perfect 8-8 from the line.
It was precisely these type of performances last season that won Rose the MVP. People could see how important he was to the Bulls' success, how he essentially had to drag that band of above average role players to an elite status. But when you deal with the pain of faltering in the big moments, something Rose puts squarely on his shoulders, it changes you. Those jumpers you hit in crunch-time against top tier teams like the Spurs mean a little more. They're something you can recall, something you can rely upon as you gear up for later showdowns.
Each time Rose closes for the Bulls, he's one step closer to being ready for what the Eastern playoffs will throw at him. On back-to-back nights, he made big shots for the Bulls. If you hit enough of them, they kind of start to become habit. They aren't so daunting anymore, don't carry that same pressure. Rose has always been willing to take the shots. Now he's making them. And that's something he can take with him.
Stats aren't the enemy of basketball's beauty. It's simply the recorded data of what happened. The human eye, on the other hand, is a receiver of data; data which passes through many filters before registering in the brain -- and it usually is never stored, and when it is, is distorted with prejudice.
Analyzing basketball is a lot of fun. It's also an illuminating tactic used to better understand the game of basketball.
But the game is a source of entertainment, not a process that determines the livelihood of masses like political theatre. Analyzing Rose's data is useful to understanding his level of production as a basketball player. But it should never interfere with that feeling of bliss that comes with the endorphins that rush through the body while watching him play.
On an almost nightly basis, watching Rose helps me better identify with one of the most illuminating works with which I've ever had the privilege of experiencing, Walt Whitman's "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer":
When I heard the learn'd astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
Recalling the vitriol that drove Bulls fans defense of Rose's MVP case in 2011, I felt those fans would appreciate the spirit of this poem.
As the second half of the season breeds MVP conversation and teams added to the "Championship Contender Conversation" with the Bulls, Heat, and Thunder, re-read this poem and recognize the time to look in perfect silence at the stars -- no matter who wins the MVP or the Finals.