The Chicago Bulls are heading to a crucial Game 7 showdown on the road, and much of the pregame focus centers on Derrick Rose. The rest of the team's accomplishments deserve praise and shouldn't be overshadowed by Rose's injury status.
The guys who have suited up and played for the Bulls this season have battled through the year and into the playoffs. It hasn't been easy for the Bulls as they've adjusted to playing without their best player and starting point guard.
Instead of getting the credit they deserve, attention remains centered around Rose.
David Lee might play tonight after tearing his hip flexor in Game 1. Your move, Derrick Rose.— SportsNation (@SportsNation) May 3, 2013
Derrick Rose is jumping up and down on the Chicago bench. He should do a back flip just to mess with everyone.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) April 23, 2013
All the while, the rest of the team has become a model of resilience.
This team has had to grind its way to the postseason. It's never been easy, as the group has faced multiple injuries and extreme low points. They survived a stretch in February where they went 4-8, including embarrassing performances in an 128-96 loss to the Denver Nuggets, an 86-67 loss to the Miami Heat and an 102-72 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Fast-forward to the playoffs and they have left everything on the court in the series against the Brooklyn Nets.
Nate Robinson visibly struggled with flu-like symptoms in Game 6, but gave the Bulls 42 meaningful minutes.
Joakim Noah has been playing through excruciating pain due to plantar fasciitis. Deng only missed Game 6 because of the results from a spinal tap to check for meningitis. Despite the medical issue, Deng insists on fighting:
If I'm medically cleared I will fly to NY to be with my team and try to win game 7— Luol Deng (@LuolDeng9) May 3, 2013
Robinson, Noah and Taj Gibson (knee) have remained on the court despite injuries while Kirk Hinrich and Deng are trying to return for Game 7.
What's the bigger story?
Without a superstar and getting bit hard by the injury-bug, the Bulls shouldn't even be in the series; perhaps they never should have made the playoffs. This team had an excuse to lean on all season long, but never took it. Instead, they're a game away from the second round and a chance at the Miami Heat.
The 2012-13 edition of the Chicago Bulls will likely be remembered for the absence of Rose, but it should be equally remembered for the performances of the group that showed maximum effort throughout the year.
If the Bulls go on to lose Game 7, the focus will turn to Rose and whether or not he should have been on the court and if he owed it to his teammates to be on the court. The combined effort and fight from Robinson, Noah, Gibson, Hinrich and the rest of the Bulls will be forgotten by the time the Nets arrive in Miami for the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Win or lose, the Bulls on the court deserve a ton of praise and credit for what they've accomplished, regardless of how Rose's situation plays out.