A lot was made this season of how well the Chicago Bulls played without Derrick Rose. Some even suggested the team played better without him, but I think the 18-9 mark they had with Rose in street clothes was very misleading.
The reason they attained such a lofty mark without him was the knowledge in the back of their heads that he would eventually be back, despite the setbacks he suffered throughout the year.
That thought gave them the confidence to push forward and win at a pace better than expected without him.
There was a song many years ago called, "My Boyfriend's Back." In it, the girl sang, "My boyfriend's back and you're gonna be in trouble."
That's kind of the thinking of the players on the Bulls—with Rose being the boyfriend.
It's the same thing with a schoolyard bully. When you know you have a tough older brother, it gives you a false bravado. If some kid is picking on you, you threaten to bring your brother around, and you know he doesn't want that.
Rose was all of those things for the Bulls, and now he's not around to put on his cape and save the day. The Bulls have to stand up to the bully by themselves, and if the game without him Tuesday was an indication, they may not be able to do that.
The mind is a powerful tool, and it can work either in your favor or against you. If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything. If you have doubt, it can be your worst enemy.
The Bulls don't know if they can win without Rose. They did during the season, but this is the playoffs. The teams they are playing are better, and they're up for every game. It's not like that during the season.
Chicago wins on pure effort many times. They outwork their opponents. With that edge gone, and without Rose, I'm sure they are questioning themselves now.
You can say I'm wrong, but you think doubt hasn't sunk in knowing they don't have Rose around for the playoffs. I'm sure even with him there would be some, especially if they went up against Miami. Without him, every opponent looks more foreboding.
Sports are often more mental than physical. Think of the 1993-94 Chicago Bulls.
That was the year Michael Jordan retired, and yet the Bulls, if not for a bad call from referee Hue Hollins against New York in the playoffs, might have won the championship without him.
Why do you think that is? Do you think they were better without Jordan, like some people think the Bulls are without Rose?
Of course not!
What they had was the mental toughness of being champions. They won three straight NBA titles and thought they could beat anyone. It didn't matter who was there.
In the movie 48 Hours with Eddie Murphy, there was a scene in a bar where he stood up to this guy who was three times his size. He said, "Lack of (a female body part) makes you brave."
The Bulls were brave with Rose having their back. He doesn't anymore, and they don't know how good they are without him.
Last year, after Miami beat them, they had to question if they were good enough. That's why they went out and got Rip Hamilton. Would the addition of Hamilton help the Bulls visualize beating the Heat?
It's all a mind game, just like the mind game Bulls fans were playing when they thought the regular season record without Rose meant something.
Starting Friday, we'll see where their minds are at.