…for Bulls fans wanting to see their players and coach take center stage.
Derrick Rose played only 18 minutes — the fewest minutes of any starter on the Eastern Conference squad – and sat out the second and fourth quarters. He didn’t uncork any monster dunks or make any spectacular plays, finishing with 14 points and 3 assists in an exceptionally quiet performance.
Luol Deng’s night was even more silent than Rose’s. He played less than six minutes and finished with 1 assist and zero points on 0-for-2 shooting…both jump shots. At one point, Deng collided with Kevin Durant, falling on the floor and landing on his left wrist.
You know. The one with the torn ligament.
As for Tom Thibodeau, he was so driven that he coached most of the game from his butt (despite being a notorious stander/pacer) and his Eastern Conference squad gave up an All-Star record 88 points in the first half.
It was that kind of night. Rose looking like he didn’t want to be there, Deng looking like he didn’t belong there, and Thibs looking like he was thinking ahead to the Bulls’ next game.
At ay rate, between Deng’s fall and Rose’s cranky back, it’s not too surprising Thibs kept their workload light. No sense in risking his players in a meaningless exhibition.
More telling than their stats were Rose’s and Deng’s behavior during the pregame player introductions.
While his fellow starters — Dwight Howard and LeBron James in particular — clowned and danced, Rose stood as grim-faced and solemn as if he was attending a funeral.
Said Rose: “I’m just me. I can’t be anyone else. I can dance. But there’s a time and place for that. And I don’t think that it was then and there.”
As for Deng, he ditched the official warmups — busting the league-mandated dress code – and showed off a t-shirt with his home continent of Africa on it.
Said Deng: “Wearing that T-shirt meant a lot to me, felt great. And I’m sure a lot of kids back home saw that and had smiles on their faces. That made my day. I just felt like it was the right time. I wouldn’t do something that is negative. If you look at the shirt, it’s not a logo of anything. I’m not advertising anything. I just felt like where I came from, it’s something I always wanted to see as a kid.”
And that, as they say, was that. Bring on the second half of the season.