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Time for Derrick Rose and his apologists to realize his career is all but over

Chicago protects its own. Understandably.

Especially a once-in-a-generation athlete who easily could have been swallowed up by the streets of Englewood but instead became the NBA’s youngest most valuable player in 2011.

Former Bulls guard Derrick Rose, however, now faces some hard truths — truths many of his apologists have been ignoring for years. The ‘‘meetings and graduations’’ he was so focused on being able to attend someday? Well, it might be time to start scheduling them because his career seems to be coming to an end.

One former teammate Thursday said Rose barely looks like the same player he was even in his final season with the Bulls (2015-16). And while Rose’s sample size for the Cavaliers this season is small (10 games), the six points, four turnovers and one assist — not to mention the apparent lack of interest — he had in 13 minutes Tuesday against the Spurs looked more G League than NBA.

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In the big picture, Rose no longer fits in the NBA, especially at point guard. Need further proof than the eye test? Just take a look at a couple of the point guards the Bulls have faced recently.

On Dec. 17, the Warriors’ Stephen Curry lit them up for 30 points, including 6-for-11 from three-point range. On Wednesday, the 76ers’ Ben Simmons threw a triple-double at them.

Rose is neither of those players. Hell, Rose isn’t even Rose anymore. His athleticism was unmatched coming out of Memphis, but once his knee injuries stripped that away, he was exposed as a poor outside shooter with a low basketball IQ. He never added to his game. He never evolved.

Now, at 29, Rose is in a what-now situation. He’s a dinosaur.

‘‘I’ll never bet against Derrick Rose,’’ Bulls forward Justin Holiday, who was teammates with Rose last season with the Knicks, said recently. ‘‘Obviously, I’m not around him this season, but everything he’s been through, I just know that he still has those moments. Like I said, I won’t bet against him.’’

That’s admirable, but Holiday isn’t an NBA general manager.

Besides Rose’s diminishing skills on the court, there are the distractions he brings off it. He has needed time away both with the Knicks and Cavaliers. With the Knicks, it was an unexcused family issue; with the Cavaliers, he needed to get his head straight and reportedly contemplated retirement.

Let’s go ahead and put an end to that debate. It was a great first four seasons, but the welcome wore out.

Looking back at Rose’s time with the Bulls, he basically held the organization hostage after his first knee surgery. The Bulls took a leap of faith that he would return to the player he once was, then tried to cater to him when he didn’t. It only led to underachievement and a splintered locker room.

At his core, Rose is a good-hearted man. Far too often, though, he played puppet in his circle rather than puppeteer.

Protecting your own has value — until it doesn’t. Then it’s time for some reality.

It’s over, Derrick.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com