“Done.” You could see it on Chicago Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi’s face. Twenty-three-year-old Derrick Rose was done.
The high-flying point guard collapsed onto the floor with a torn ACL, putting Chicago’s title hopes in an almost equally ruinous position. But as the initial shock and disgust began to fade, the “whys” echoed across the airwaves.
Why was Rose playing with a 12-point lead with only 1:10 remaining?
Why did Head Coach Tom Thibodeau not go to one of his other three proven point guards?
And why did practically every analyst and talking head around the NBA defend the decision, as if the Bulls were truly in danger of getting upset by the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers?
Rose struggled with injuries this season. He missed a combined 39 games due to back, groin and ankle problems. ESPN.com columnist Michael Wilbon attributed it to a lockout-shortened season he said came after players agreed to “deal with the devil.”
To Bulls fans, it was all so trivial.
In the 14 years since Michael Jordan left, tenderness has hung in the Windy City.
The team fell into disrepair following his retirement, led by the likes of Eddy Curry and Marcus Fizer, who helped nose-dive the Bulls to an abysmal level that for several years typified Chicago sports.
But with each passing year, the Bulls inched back toward greatness. That is the main reason why Rose’s injury, which occurred just five months after Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s season was cut short, stung so badly. They were on the verge of excellence. This was their year.
But if any team can persist after losing their best player, it’s the Chicago Bulls. After all, Chicago has demonstrated a mind-boggling ability this season to win games in his absence.
The Bulls were 18-9 (.667) without Rose this year, a better winning percentage than every team except the Miami Heat (.697), San Antonio Spurs (.758) and Oklahoma City Thunder (.712).
While they played without direction in the second game against Philadelphia, perhaps deceived by Rose’s gallant pregame stride to center court without crutches, the Bulls are a team far from finished.
They rebound well. They defend. And 99.9 percent of the time, they play with a chip on their shoulders. Those things happen on nightly basis with or without Rose. And in CJ Watson, John Lucas III and Mike James, the Bulls are undeniably deep at point guard.
Don’t sleep on them.