MILWAUKEE — Coach Tom Thibodeau is used to defending Derrick Rose.
“That’s what bothered me,’’ he said last September. “People who have been around Derrick, our real fans have an appreciation for him. The people who criticized [his toughness], they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.’’
Thibodeau was at it again Wednesday with a growing number of critics claiming that Rose is soft.
And while Thibodeau had Rose’s back, it wasn’t with the same ferocity as last season.
“Whether it’s the MVP year and everyone praising him like there was no room for improvement or whether it’s criticism, it’s all the same,’’ Thibodeau said before the Bulls’ 95-86 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
“You’ve got to put that aside. You really only answer to yourself. Only you know how much you’re putting into each day. Once you’ve determined you’re giving all that you have, that’s all you can do, and you should be fine with that.
“And he’s strong-minded. This comeback’s not going to be easy, and he knows that, understands that. He’s just got to keep grinding away. It will work out.’’
That slow comeback at least made some strides against Milwaukee. Rose and his two sprained ankles went from questionable earlier in the day to starting and actually producing.
He was by no means the guy who had 18 points in the first half against Cleveland before the ankles crumbled, but his 13 points — 10 in the first half — were the footnote to his seven assists and two steals.
He was limping at times and the usual spring down the court was more like a casual jog, but Rose was at least playing. All the speculation about communication — or lack thereof — could at least be tabled for a night.
Rose put in 31 minutes, 12 seconds, and for Thibodeau, that’s the best thing he can do.
Rose knows there has been a lot of noise lately, and he’s simply tuning it out.
“I can’t pay attention to it,’’ Rose said. “It’s always going to be there. Even if I make it through the season healthy, my first playoff game is going to be like, ‘OK, this is a new journey, is he going to be healthy through the playoffs?’ It’s fine. Even if I play the whole year and I don’t get injured again, next year is going to be the same thing. I can’t get mad at it.
“We’re 4-1 now, so I’m not worried about myself. Just worrying about the team and trying to put us in good position to be contenders for the rest of the year.’’
That includes staying anger-free despite the growing discontent in his own city.
“No, no, that’s Chicago, man,’’ Rose said when asked if it hurt more that it’s happening in his hometown. “I’m used to it. Chicago is a hard place to play, I know that. They just want to see good basketball, so they’re just good basketball fans. I can’t get mad at them.’’