Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Tom Thibodeau had looked forward to representing the Chicago Bulls at the 61st NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night in Orlando, Fla., but neither looked like themselves and, for the most part, they struggled to find their niche in the star-studded game that lacks much defense.
Over the past couple years, Rose has repeatedly expressed his dislike for pickup games, which don't have much organization or continuity, and looked disinterested in participating in the theatrics that seemingly come with being an All-Star. The 6-foot-3 point guard looked on while fellow starters LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and Chicago native Dwyane Wade danced and smiled during pregame introductions. While Rose is the reigning league MVP, he certainly wasn't aiming for the annual showcase's prestigious award, which was won by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, who dropped 36 points and seven rebounds in the Western Conference's 152-149 victory over the Eastern Confernce.
There were plenty of big performances to wrap up the weekend's festivities. Kobe Bryant put up 27 points and passed Bulls and NBA legend Michael Jordan as the all-time leading scorer in All-Star Game history. James led the East with a game-high-tying 36 points on six three-pointers, while Wade had just the third triple-double in the game's history, with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Rose poured in an All-Star career-high 14 points on two three-pointers in 18 minutes of action. His best stretch came in the third quarter when he scored 12 and connected on five baskets. So, is Rose getting the hang of playing in the midseason exhibition contest?
"Not at all. You know this is not my game at all," he told reporters at Amway Arena after the game. "But I love just being out there, just seeing guys, seeing what they do. It's exciting when you're out there."
Meanwhile, Deng, the Bulls' glue player, was the first reserve to check into the game and missed both of his field-goal attempts en route to a scoreless, one-assist outing. He did not play in the final three quarters as Phoenix Suns and West guard Steve Nash was the only other player who failed to score. However, for Deng simply appearing in the game held plenty of significance, and he used the opportunity to proudly show off a T-shirt that had a picture of his native Africa.
"For me to be selected meant a lot more to me," Deng told the assembled media. "The whole weekend, being selected and being recognized as an All-Star meant a lot more to me than what I was going to show or do tonight on the floor."
Now, it's back to business for the Bulls, who tip off the unofficial second half of the season on Tuesday night against the New Orleans Hornets to conclude a six-game homestand. For Thibodeau, the fact that the highly anticipated All-Star Weekend is finally over allows his team to fully focus on the task at hand. He coached the East All-Stars, of course, and did his part Sunday, holding Rose and Deng -- both of whom sat the entire fourth quarter -- to a combined 23 minutes.