Derrick Rose apologists need to start seeing the reality of their fading star

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Derrick Rose didn’t have an answer.

A few “Who knows?’’ from the point guard, and then an “I can’t put a finger on it,’’ was the closest he could get to explaining why the Bulls continue a disturbing trend of putting in half-hearted efforts against teams that are clearly below their talent level.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a mirror near his locker following the Saturday overtime loss to Minnesota. Maybe then he could have grabbed a glimpse of where the problem starts.

In the three Bulls losses this season, Rose is a combined minus-51 in the plus/minus category – worst amongst the regular starters. Heck, even in the opening-season win over Cleveland, Rose was a minus-1, while Cavaliers point guard Mo Williams was plus-5. Yes, that 32-year-old Mo Williams.

“It’s all about effort,’’ Rose said following the 102-93 loss to the Timberwolves. “We’ll get tired of getting our [butt] whooped one day, but it’s all about just brining out that championship-caliber effort every night. We’ve got to stay more consistent, we’ve got to stay together when we’re out there, and the good thing about this league is we play in a couple days.’’

Maybe it’s not such a “good thing’’ for this team.

After all, Saturday was also supposed to be a good thing too, in the wake of the high-energy win over Oklahoma City just 48 hours earlier.

A 29-point performance by the one-time MVP that had the Rose apologists out in full force Friday morning, spewing the usual over-excited declarations of “Vintage Rose!’’ And while the Rose apologists are still trailing the Kobe apologists in an unrealistic perception of what’s going on, they are closing ground.

So why does Rose and Co. seemingly get up for spotlight games, but have inconsistent efforts against the rest of the Association?

“I don’t know, we can’t put a finger on it,’’ Rose said. “Who knows? If I had the answer this would have been stopped, but it’s something I think we just have to figure out as a group.’’

Rose was then asked if that responsibility should fall on the veterans, starting with him, and responded, “I wouldn’t single out one person, but it falls on the entire team. It’s just brining in that effort, being the aggressor when you’re out there on the defensive end, the offensive end.’’

“The entire team?’’

Therein lies the disconnect, as well as the reality of what Rose has become.

Aaron Brooks is allowed to have inconsistent games, inconsistent levels of energy. That’s what a reserve point guard making $2.25 million a year does. But the guy making $20 million and change this season, and has already insisted that he’s looking forward to that next free-agent payday in 2017?

His energy level, or at least effort, has to be on full display from game-to-game, practice-to-practice.

Jimmy Butler shouldn’t have to be declaring himself the de facto leader of this group, but he saw very little choice, especially sharing a backcourt alongside a fading superstar that doesn’t even realize he’s dimming.

There will be more 29-point, late-game heroics from Rose this season. The problem is between those types of outings are a handful of 4-for-12s for 10 points.

That’s not going to get it done. That’s not championship caliber.

Let the Rose apologists continue to overlook a major problem with this team going back to last season. Allow them the opportunity to keep thumping that chest like they did following the No. 1’s stellar performance against the Thunder.

Come mid-May it will be nothing more than a faint murmur.

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