Joakim Noah, who not only put up 17 points and 15 rebounds in a win over the Heat Thursday night, showed in the locker room afterwards that he's still just the best:
I think that the people in the city, there’s something about when Miami comes to town. You wake up in the morning and you feel it, you feel people in the city they don’t like the Miami Heat, we don’t like the Miami Heat, and it always feels good to beat them.
A lot of battles, a lot of scars, a lot of tough losses, a lot of seasons ending because of (the Heat), and I think that just our team needed it...We’ve been through a lot the last couple weeks, and I think even for me it’s really hard to play without Derrick.
I want to win with Derrick Rose. He brings a lot of hope to the city and I feed of that. I feel really privileged to play in that position so him going down was just, it was really hard for me, hard for us but we have to move on and it’s not easy.
It's especially not easy to move on since Rose himself didn't get the memo from his own team that he's out for the season. After all the consternation #TheReturn brought to the team last year, theoretically the Bulls were looking to avoid that this time around (including questions to the rest of the team about it) with a more definitive prognosis. Rose then spoke early Thursday and in a mouthful of word soup suggested he may come back this season "if healthy and the situation was right".
With Rose's words providing obvious headlines, after Noah mentioned 'losing their best player' to TNT's Craig Sager post-game, Sager then focused Noah's post-game interview on someone who isn't on the team.
Sager: You mentioned the loss of Derrick Rose, today he kind of left the door open for a possible return if you guys can pull it together and make the playoffs, how does that make you feel?
Noah: We just got to keep fighting. But at the same time we're human. It's been a tough couple of weeks but right now we're happy to have a huge win under our belts, a lot of guys played really well, and we're a team of fighters. We did it last year, and we got to do it again.
Sager: You're obviously close with Derrick, and may have taken his injury harder than anyone else, but what inspiration did he give you by saying "don't worry about me, I'm gonna be ok"?
Noah: He's so tough, he's already doing his rehab. But just the fact that he said: "if I can come back, I'm gonna be there"...that meant the world to me. I know he's a fighter, it's a tough loss for all of us, but watching the way he handles himself he's a huge inspiration.
So thanks to Derrick and Team Rose for a ticket to an encore performance of 'mixed-message theater'.
Like Ricky said after the Rose presser, Derrick should have the attitude of coming back when healthy. Even the 'if the situation is right' qualifier can make me a bit queasy, but I'm trying not to put more thought into Rose's words than he probably he does himself. The important thing is him playing basketball when healthy, because he simply hasn't been playing enough these past few years.
But clearly the Bulls (and presumably in alignment with Rose) wanted to rule him out to avoid the lingering specter of a comeback all season . At least publicly. If it's suggested to his teammates that he can return, clearly Noah and no doubt others would welcome it and the possibility may indeed inspire them. But I'm not sure they want to be asked about it all season. Especially since given what we've seen of Rose recuperations so far, he values his own long-term career (not that there's anything wrong with that) more than any single season.
The rest of the guys being pressed with the notion that Rose may come back but only if the team can 'pull it together' seems almost cruel. Which would be too bad if it continues, because even in an otherwise-depressing season we have the pure awesomeness of Joakim Noah to enjoy. Especially against the Heat. As Luol Deng said after the game: "If we played Miami 82 times a season, Jo would probably be the best player in the league."