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Derrick Rose at crux of his career

CHICAGO -- Apparently, Derrick Rose does recruit. It's a huge story or non-story, depending on whom you talk to, but Rose has made waves the last four years, including in a story from this past weekend, with his plain-spoken declarations that he's not into the idea that star free agents need to be wooed like high school seniors. But, in a move that helps his image and could change his career, Rose showed up quite publicly to the Bulls' courtship of Carmelo Anthony Tuesday.

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For all the drama that has surrounded Rose since his left anterior cruciate ligament gave out that spring day in 2012, it's important to remember Rose's old mantra before "I'm fine." Remember the "I-just-want-to-win" Rose?

Memories of the true Derrick, the on-court killer, have been buried under never-ending rehab updates and fuzzy return timelines. But, when healthy, he's still Derrick Rose and all that entails.

The only thing that's truly important is that Rose is healthy. All indications are that is true. Whether he can stay healthy, well, no one can predict that.

After years of image mismanagement, be it incidental, accidental or quizzical, it was important that Rose was at the meeting. Now, people can shut up about the recruiting angle and focus on Rose the player, not the pitchman.

Will Rose's inclusion be a game-changer for Anthony's decision? We'll see in a week or so. But it was certainly helpful for Rose to be there at the meeting, to show a public unity for a team desperately trying to compete for a title after three lost seasons.

Following a season-long rehab process for a much less serious knee injury than his previous one, Rose finds himself at the crux of his career.

Is he the co-star, the hometown hero willing to slide into the second banana role for a chance at a ring?

Is he the leading man again, the franchise player who has come back from his comeback season?

It all depends on Anthony, a 30-year-old star with his own decisions to make.

If Anthony comes here, Rose has to cede a good deal of the limelight, and more importantly the ball with the isolation-dominant lead scorer.

That's not a big deal on principle. Rose is a private person by nature and has always been a willing and able distributor. After missing most of two seasons, he could use some help. Even before the injury, Rose, who is barely 6-foot-3, was never going to last darting into the lane every five possessions for an acrobatic layup.

Think about it, the best scorers Rose has played with -- ever -- are Ben Gordon and Carlos Boozer.

But if Anthony decides not to come to Chicago, then it's all on Rose to carry the Bulls past the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards, not to mention the powerhouse teams from the West.

The Bulls have been in limbo without him. If Rose plays, sans Anthony, are the Bulls title contenders? Yes. Are they favorites? No.

While Rose is famous for his "I'll play with anyone" stance, people in Rose's inner circle have long expressed views that he needs help on the scoring end. With Rose's career mortality coming into focus, those close to Rose were very high on Anthony in conversations last season. Who wouldn't want him?

It's too early to speculate on how Rose and Anthony would mesh, but I don't see jealousy as much of a factor.

Rose is already paid for life thanks to concurrent deals with the Bulls and adidas. While the shoe company certainly wouldn't want to share the spotlight with Anthony, a Jordan Brand spokesman, more wins for the Bulls means more Rose gear on the streets.

That's why it was so important that Rose tried to convince Anthony to join the team. Rose has four seasons left in his 20s -- and just as importantly, three on his maximum deal. Rose has missed two regular seasons (minus 10 meaningless games) and three postseasons of his prime. He'll be 26 this October. The youngest player to ever win the MVP is not so young anymore.

Revisionist history majors have criticized Rose for taking up so much space on a capped-out team with little in return. It's helpful to remember the mood when Rose inked the deal, complete with the upcharge for the newly instated "Derrick Rose Rule" to the collective bargaining agreement.

The sky was the limit for Rose and the Bulls back then. The lockout had ended and the team had Miami in its sights. After all, the Heat proved vulnerable in the Finals after bouncing the Bulls in five games. The storyline was the Bulls were coming.

But Rose missed half the season with nagging injuries, and then his world changed in the first game of the playoffs.

A lot has changed since then, but even back in the salad days of Rose's ascendancy, there was loud talk about adding another star to the Bulls' mix.

If Anthony chooses another team -- many figure he'll stay in New York for a max deal and Phil Jackson -- then we'll move on to Kevin Love.

If that doesn't happen, it's on Rose to put the franchise back on his shoulders and hope his body can carry the weight.