DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose has no problem with his team being viewed as the underdogs as they get set to face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. He and his teammates enjoy that role.
"If anything, take it for what it is," he said after Friday afternoon's film session. "Us against the world. That's the way we're going to go and look at it."
Rose downplayed the significance of playing the Heat, after all the hoopla surrounding the free agency courtship of Heat stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh over the summer, but there's no question there was a little something extra to the rivalry when the teams faced off against one another during the regular season. The play was very physical and the emotion was real. After all, it was the final regular season meeting between the two teams in early March in which Heat players were crying in the locker room, according to Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra.
Despite all the abounding subplots, Rose says he never thinks about what might have been had James, Wade or Bosh ended up on his team.
"I really don't know," he said of how the vibe might have changed around the Bulls. "If anything, this year has been great. I think with the guys that I have, man, I take my hat off to the management and the ownership of this team. Where they picked a bunch of guys that just want to win. And it's helping everyone on the team where they're good guys, first off."
Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer echoed those sentiments on Saturday.
"We've been the underdog all season," Boozer said. "Nobody's really talking about us to start the season. Nobody was talking about us during the season. Nobody's talking about us now. For us, we're in the position we've been in all season. It's not unfamiliar territory. We've been in here all season long. Just been plugging away, getting better every day and that's what we'll continue to do. Keep plugging away and keep getting better."
The matchup with the Heat is something that Bulls center Joakim Noah is definitely looking forward to.
"You couldn't write it any better," he said. "This is something that we've been waiting for for a long time. This is what you work hard for, is to be able to play in situations like this. With everything that's gone on, to be able to play the Miami Heat in the conference finals is something that we're just really excited about the challenge."
Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.