Eye of the storm

CHICAGO -- The Derrick Rose you think you know, the Derrick Rose you're pretty sure you know, was on the United Center court putting in work before Thursday's game against the Miami Heat.

There would be no head-to-head matchup with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, of course, as Rose's rehab from an ACL tear soldiered on for another night.

But there he was, punching the clock, shooting jumpers, driving to the basket, even dunking once, just building up a lather. He was silent, stone-faced and focused, oblivious to the distractions building around him.

As with all of the great athletes, there is a world orbiting around Rose that he is experienced at pushing aside. And there is an economy, several economies actually, that depend on Rose, a 24-year-old self-described "hooper" from one of the roughest neighborhoods in Chicago.

When Rose talks, as he did to USA Today and then briefly to Chicago beat writers before the All-Star break, people listen, parsing his words for meaning, wondering who told him what to say. "What does 110 percent mean? Would he really be OK with missing the season?"

And when people around him talk, people listen, too. For some reason, after nearly a season of silent work, Rose's people have clumsily broken their silence. First, his agent set up the USA Today interview, which confused more than it clarified.

Then there were the comments Reggie Rose made to ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers in a story published Thursday afternoon.

In short, Reggie, Derrick's older brother, mentor and manager, essentially said the Bulls haven't done enough to build a contender to unseat Miami, that they pretended Rose would definitely return this season when that was never a certainty, that the Bulls' inability to add to their team this year -- salary-cap rules be damned -- might influence his desire to return in the coming weeks or months.

"It's frustrating to see my brother play his heart and soul out for the team and them not put anything around him," Reggie Rose said.

Some of what Reggie Rose said has some merit. I'd like to see the Bulls be more aggressive in adding to the team. If anything, adidas, not the Bulls, deserves the blame for creating a belief that Derrick Rose would return sooner rather than later. I'm fine with Rose being conservative with his return, and I would hope his family would look out for his health first, second and last.

But I'm also aware of the reality of the situation. Salary-cap rules, repeater taxes and the business of selling shoes, this isn't just fine print.

The Bulls are a very good team without Rose, and frankly, I think with a healthy Rose, this team can compete with Miami in a seven-game series.

Reggie Rose said explicitly those were his words, not his brother's, but this minor blowup seemed to reinforce the notion that Rose is still the little brother who is led by Reggie, the young superstar who will replace loyalty to his team with loyalty to his agents, his shoe company, the business of being DRose.

In trying to help Rose, Reggie hurt his brother's seemingly impervious public image.

For their part, the Bulls publicly tried to swat away this latest issue.

Bulls general manager Gar Forman spoke for the organization when he told me, "Derrick has never said anything like that to us."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who surely wouldn't mind another superstar on his roster, said, "Obviously, Reggie and Derrick are very close. We share the same concerns about Derrick's health, so that's not anything new. So it's not a big deal. And Reggie's entitled to his own opinion."

To reporters, time and time again, Rose has expressed confidence in the front office, and stated a desire not to serve as de facto general manager by recruiting other players. I'm good with my team, he said last season before the Bulls added Richard Hamilton. He was good with Rip, too.

But then again, how many people are honest to reporters and bosses? I hope Rose desires more and more as his career goes on. He deserves it and so does the city.

Before the game, a friendly Rose talked to Heat big man Chris "Birdman" Andersen before the game, mostly just Rose telling the tattooed, mohawked eccentric that he was doing well and that "the organization has been great to me. Nobody is rushing me."

A little later, a few reporters waited for Rose after his workout, and when he was asked about his brother's words, Rose offered a "no comment," and told us he would have a statement out soon. It read, in full, "I have always felt that the Bulls organization's goals have been the same as mine and that is to bring another championship to this city."

Earlier Thursday, I spoke with a true member of Rose's inner circle, his security chief and former high school assistant coach, Andre Hamlin.

Hamlin, 39, goes back forever with Rose. When talking about Rose's work ethic -- "That's the hardest-working man in the gym" -- he harked back a few years for an anecdote.

"We practiced in Simeon's gym before graduation and after his graduation," Hamlin said, with a laugh. "You know how hot it was? I didn't want to be in there."

With that in mind, Hamlin listens to what people are saying about Rose on sports talk radio -- that he doesn't want to play, that he's satisfied with shoe money -- and he's half-tempted to call in to set the record straight.

"For me, it's like a smack in the face," Hamlin said. "Derrick wants to play. He wants to play really bad."

But Rose, who played through a variety of injuries and ailments before breaking down last year, is trying to let his body speak to him, speak for him. There is an insecurity that drives athletes like Rose. He has to be the best. Thankfully, there is also maturity.

Rose just started practicing five-on-five this week, an important next step to his return.

Hamlin said you can definitely believe the decision to come back is Rose's own. He has to be cleared by the Bulls' doctors, but Rose isn't being led by his brother, his agent or anyone else. They might direct an interview or two, but not his future. Rose isn't a kid anymore. Maybe some people envision him as one, but it's not accurate anymore.

"Derrick is his own man," Hamlin said. "Can't nobody tell him anything."

As for Reggie's comments, Hamlin hadn't read them when we talked, but he heard the gist of them from sports talk radio.

"Reggie gives Derrick a lot of advice. They're very close," Hamlin said. "But Reggie is his own man and Derrick is his own man."

Of course, I asked Hamlin if he thinks Rose is coming back this season. I had to.

"I'm not sure," he said. "Physically, me and him are battling, and he's winning. I know he's working his tail off."

I don't know much, but I'd like to believe the Rose I see is the Rose I know. That's the guy putting in work to come back to be the guy we all love watching play a game.