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SportsMonday: Noah Vs. Rose

We're going to trust the Hawks to take care of business against the Wild. There was a little setback Sunday, but the No. 1 seed is still in control. And as Joe Gilmartin of the Phoenix Gazette first said in 1987 (and Laker coach at the time Pat Riley immediately parroted), "No playoff series truly begins until a home team loses."

So if the perpetually home-ice advantaged Hawks can just keep all their series' from even starting this year, we should be good. Then again, it would be fine if they wanted to record a road win in Game 4 tomorrow night starting at 8:30 p.m..

The point of all this is that despite plenty of Blackhawk playoff drama around here, the big spotlight still shines on the amazing Bulls, who open their series with the Heat this evening at 6 p.m.

The indomitable Joakim Noah continues to lead this team on what can only be described as a ridiculous journey.

Noah, who led the last NCAA men's basketball repeat champs in his final two years at Florida (2006 and '07), has been a compelling figure for a long time. He said the Bulls would win Game 7 in Brooklyn on Saturday (despite the fact that the franchise was 0-6 in road Game 7s in its history) and then delivered 24 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks to make it happen. Noah has always played with unusual fervor and passion, but during the past two weeks he took his game to an even higher level.

We'd have to get some sort of sports podiatrist in here to confirm but let's just say it sure seems as though the Bulls' big man has essentially willed his foot to recover from a painful bout of plantar fasciitis that seemed certain to severely limit him in this year's playoffs.

And where others would have wilted in the still brand new Barclay's Center in Brooklyn facing a talented home team with his team's playoff life on the line and on his shoulders, Noah obviously reveled in the challenge. And then he capped it all off by storming the stands to celebrate with his New York-based family and bellowing "Mommy, I love you!"

Did I mention the guy is compelling?

Now we'll see if a few of his best lieutenants can find a way past health challenges of their own. It wasn't enough that Luol Deng's bout of flu last week was probably going to send him to the sideline for at least a game. Deng also had to deal with after effects of a botched lumbar puncture prescribed to make sure he didn't have viral meningitis. The procedure is common but the after effects in this case - severe headaches and other symptoms due to leaked spinal fluid, were fearsome.

And it turned out that knee, hip, back and elbow injuries weren't enough this season for Kirk Hinrich. He capped it off (we hope!) by suffering a severely bruised calf last week. He may or may not play in Game 1. Deng is out tonight.

This team is obviously remarkably good at shrugging off not just injuries and illness but unique and unusual injuries and illnesses. So fans would be well-advised to not even start writing these guys off.

And then there is Derrick Rose.

It appeared clear after his statements to the media on Saturday that Rose is still clinging to the idea that his knee will eventually heal so well that it will be even better than it was before he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

We've pointed out before that this is simply not feasible. Given that this is still his standard, he won't be returning against the Heat. If this is still his standard in the fall, he won't be returning for the start of the next season. It would be great if someone would fill him on the medical reality (his knee will always be at least slightly diminished from now on) but Rose also made it clear Saturday that he doesn't receive a whole lot of input from outside his little personal cocoon, despite his presence on the Bulls bench of late.

His absence from the court these playoffs is too bad for Bulls fans but it is worse for Rose. He is missing a hell of a run.


Jim Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.

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