Nobody wins, nobody loses NBA exhibition games, really. Records signify nothing and get wiped clean in a few weeks as easily as swiping at a white board.
But the Chicago Bulls already are winning their preseason, thanks to the distractions they shed over the summer.
No more Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah injury headlines for the Bulls. No more endless recovery or rehab updates. No sideshow storylines, either, with Rose currently enmeshed in a civil lawsuit and, with two friends, still facing a criminal probe related to rape allegations from a female acquaintance of the New York Knicks point guard.
The Bulls traded Rose to New York in June, describing it as a basketball move. That was meant to deflect attention from Rose's frequent injuries and absences, dating back to his torn ACL knee injury in April 2012. Over the next four seasons, Rose failed to play in 201 of the Bulls' 328 regular-season games.
The rape allegations, made by a woman whom Rose dated off and on for two years, surfaced at the start of last season. But the $21.5 million lawsuit did not gain much traction publicly while Rose still played for the Bulls.
"We knew what everybody else knew," Chicago's vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said at the team's media day Sept. 26. "Those are legal issues. … We wish him well."
Clearly, with the start of the civil trial in Los Angeles this week, Rose's profile and probably his image have changed. He has been asked about the case frequently by New York reporters and now he has begun missing practice and game time to be present in the courtroom. Here are the sorts of media updates that have become part of the Knicks beat:
Noah (hamstring) didn't practice. Rose isn't at practice. He's in LA for the trial.— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) October 6, 2016
Hornacek said he doesn't know if Derrick Rose will return for Saturday's preseason game. Said he doesn't know yet when he'll be back from LA— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) October 6, 2016
Derrick Rose finally showed up at 10:43, 40 minutes into Doe testimony and nearly 2 hours after he was scheduled to show. Wearing dark suit— Julia Marsh (@juliakmarsh) October 6, 2016
Compared to that, the alleged incompatibility of Jimmy Butler's, Dwyane Wade's and Rajon Rondo's styles would need to involve weaponry to rise to a comparable level of distraction.
Noah has been hobbled this week by a hamstring strain suffered near the end of training camp last week. It came after the veteran center's headline-grabbing no-show of a dinner-with-the-cadets at West Point, where the Knicks held camp.
Even after the spin was complete to smooth over hard feelings from Noah's "anti-war" remarks and rude behavior toward the camp's hosts, Noah missing games and practice time – he missed 53 last year due to shoulder surgery – was the opposite of the start he and the Knicks had anticipated.
It would have been even more discouraging in Chicago, where Noah's health and availability had become medical staff sidekick to Rose's. Rose already had worn thin the patience of fans and some in the organization not with his injuries per se but in managing the timing of his rehabs and returns. His comments at the start of 2015-16 about becoming a free agent in 2017 raised suspicions among fans that his next contract meant more to him than returning to form for a team that had been paying him.
And his casual use of superlatives – Rose's immediate situation always is the "best" – caused him to look unappreciative of the Bulls' patience.
"It was time for Derrick to go on and play someplace else and try to establish himself," Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said last month. So ended the run of the guy counted on since 2008 to restore some of the Michael Jordan success and mystique to the franchise.
Both Rose and Noah, at their best, did enough to earn spots on the Bulls' all-time team (12-man roster version). But here and now, in October 2016, after last season's splintering in the ranks, the front office's decisions to trade Rose and not bid in free agency for Noah look to be spot-on addition by subtraction.
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