A funny thing happens when network coverage of the Chicago Bulls' playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets cuts to Derrick Rose in a suit, becoming animated as he cheers on his teammates in their desperate attempt to hold off Brooklyn.
You remember he's a good kid that you want to root for.
That said, it's becoming more and more difficult for Bulls fans not to feel contempt towards the hometown hero.
Enough has been written about why Rose should or shouldn't come back this season. That horse has already escaped the stable, as Rose will not play in Game 7 and the Bulls will likely not have enough ammunition left to defeat the Nets.
What hasn't been talked about as much is the future direction of the Bulls, and the respect Joakim Noah has earned from his teammates and Bulls fans.
Joakim Noah has done what many had hoped Rose would do—gutted it out with an injury to accept the responsibility of doing whatever is needed as a leader of the team.
Now, I understand plantar fasciitis is a bit different from an ACL injury. But as an individual who has suffered from plantar fasciitis, I can attest that it is absolutely debilitating, and my level of respect for Noah has grown exponentially, knowing how painful it is to walk, let alone run and jump when your plantar fascia is inflamed.
So what happens next season?
Chicago is a blue-collar town that has always responded to hard-nosed athletes—Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, Michael Jordan, Jeremy Roenick, etc. I think it's now fair to say we can add Joakim Noah to that list.
Do you consider this now to be Joakim Noah's team?
Chicago fans still can't let go of Jay Cutler not coming back to play in the conference championship against Green Bay. Now, Cutler is a little different from Rose, in that Cutler wasn't exactly beloved before that game. But it does beg the question, how much forgiveness will Rose receive?
Probably quite a bit. In all likelihood, most will be forgiven when Rose returns next season and begins to play like the Derrick Rose we all remember.
But there will always be that memory that punches a Bulls fan in the gut. That memory of Nate Robinson becoming ill on the bench from flu, Kirk Hinrich gutting out 60 minutes in a must-win game and Joakim Noah hobbling around on a bum foot while Derrick Rose sat on the bench watching all of these guys game it out for the team.
Bulls players, to their credit, have said all the right things. They have supported their teammate without fail, but you have to know they are questioning Rose behind closed doors. Anyone who has ever played sports knows that no one is beyond reproach in a locker room, not even the star of the team. One has to wonder how much respect Rose has lost and how much Noah has gained.
Chicago Bulls fans will also face that same question next season.