- Melissa Isaacson, Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The MVP chants can still be heard at the United Center, though not with quite the same urgency as last season when the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose was establishing himself as one of the game's true superstars.
Though Rose always made it clear that team goals came first, it was in the preseason of his third year in the NBA when he uttered the now-famous "Why not me?" when asked about the possibility of becoming the league's Most Valuable Player.
Having now accomplished that once, Rose said that racking up his second MVP award in his fourth NBA season is definitely not among his top priorities.
"We're winning, that's the only thing I care about," Rose said Monday after practice. "If it comes with winning, like I always say, I'm good. As long as we're winning games, I'm OK."
But when asked if the distinction has become "unimportant" to him, Rose quickly disagreed.
"I wouldn't say that," he said. "But we're winning.
"It's hard to win in this league as everybody knows, and we're just trying to keep it up. ... I think my numbers are still up, and as long as we're winning games, I'm good."
Rose entered play Tuesday averaging 21.8 points (on 46.1 percent shooting, 32.1 percent from 3-point range), 7.7 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game in 25 games played compared to last season's regular-season average of 25 points (44.5 percent fg, 33.2 3-pt.), 7.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.05 steals.
Rose, who has missed 10 games with turf toe and back problems, endorsed Durant during All-Star Weekend in Orlando.
"I haven't (done) anything this year yet to be MVP," Rose said. "One guy that's ballin' right now is Kevin Durant. He's ballin' right now. Putting up numbers. Playing great, shooting high percentage. He's ballin'."
The Bulls have been cautious with Rose's playing time as he navigates his way through his aches and pains, and all Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau cares about is having his point guard lead his team to victory.
"If he could have one or the other, he would choose winning (over MVP) every time," Thibodeau said. "And that's really the beauty of his game and who he is. He's team first and he's going to do whatever is necessary for the team.
"We have more options offensively, so he's not scoring quite as much, but that's who he is. If he thinks we need more playmaking, that's what he'll do. If he thinks we need more scoring, that's what he'll do."
Thibodeau said it's Rose's decision-making that stands out the most to him this season.
"He's gotten a lot more attention this year," he said. "Teams are focusing on getting the ball out of his hands and he's making great plays, unselfish plays, which is leading to us playing good basketball.
"As long as he's making the right decisions, he's gained a lot of experience from last year and that says a lot about him. He keeps improving and he knows what teams are trying to do, so he knows how to take advantage of it. He's reading situations a lot better and he has our team playing extremely well."
Whether that translates into another MVP award is secondary.
Melissa Isaacson is a reporter for ESPNChicago.com. ESPN Chicago's Nick Friedell contributed to this report.