The Bulls might have played their best defense of the season Wednesday, and there wasn’t even a game.
After point guard Derrick Rose raised some eyebrows with his comments following practice Tuesday, he declined addressing the media Wednesday to defend himself. He left that to coach Tom Thibodeau and veterans Mike Dunleavy and Pau Gasol.
They did so vehemently.
“At the end of the day, Derrick’s fully committed,’’ Dunleavy said. “I can speak on his behalf. He’s fully committed the way I see him working, the way I see him out there. Nobody should question that. It’s a little bit different viewpoint. But as far as his commitment to us, the city, the team, that should never be put in question.’’
It was 24 hours earlier as Rose discussed missing four of the last six games with both ankles sprained.
“I know a lot of people get mad when they see me sit out,’’ Rose said. “But I think a lot of people don’t understand that when I sit out, it’s not because of this year. I’m thinking about long term. I’m thinking about after I’m done with basketball, having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to.’’
Dunleavy didn’t know about Rose’s comments. When informed of them, he said to a reporter, “You better have got that right,’’ acknowledging the seriousness of how it would look to the public.
“Like my man [Packers quarterback] Aaron Rodgers says, relax,’’ Dunleavy said. “I can see in his eyes and his commitment that’s what he wants. Sometimes words get misconstrued or you catch somebody on a day where they say something that is maybe not fully … maybe people just don’t understand where the person is coming from. Maybe that’s the case here. I can’t speak for Derrick for what he was saying, but I can speak for his commitment.’’
So could Gasol.
Before signing with the Bulls this summer, Gasol reiterated that the most important phone call he had was with Rose.
“It was a critical part of my decision,’’ Gasol said. “He felt confident, he felt good about his health, about going forward, about how bad he wanted to win, and so that’s what I need to hear from him. I heard it from other people in the organization, but I needed to hear it from him before I made my decision, and so far the guy works, like I said, extremely hard.
“Comes back at nights sometimes to work out extra, puts in a lot of time after practice, so I like what I see. And when he plays, when he’s healthy, he’s been really aggressive and he’s a difference-maker.’’
But Gasol also pointed out that Rose has to understand that long-term injury is the price to pay of being a professional athlete.
“Obviously, he’s concerned about his long-term health, which we all are in a way, but we’re in a business, we’re in a sport, where that’s what’s at stake and that’s a commitment that we make and a price that we pay,’’ Gasol said.
Thibodeau had a much simpler approach to the situation.
“The bottom line is this: He was injured. He had two sprained ankles. So he did the right thing,’’ he said. “And when he was better, he played.
“I just want him to keep building, put a string of games together, keep working. Thinking about the team, how we’re going to win, and that’s it.
“But just keep grinding. He’s gotta play. That’s the bottom line.’’