Bulls’ loss to Spurs shines light brighter on Derrick Rose return
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org March 6, 2013 10:26PM
Updated: March 6, 2013 11:27PM
SAN ANTONIO – There was a little extra room on the Bulls bench during the 101-83 loss to the Spurs on Wednesday night, thanks to a certain MVP once again back in hiding.
Call it damage control on the growing speculation that Derrick Rose was close to returning.
A lot was made over the weekend in Indiana when Rose sat with his team on the bench during the loss to the Pacers, and that snowballed in the hours leading up to the showdown with the Spurs, as a local San Antonio radio station was reporting that Rose could be making his season debut against the powerhouse from the Western Conference at the AT&T Center.
More bad rumors, more fairytales.
All put to rest by head coach Tom Thibodeau, and then reinforced when Rose wasn’t even a spectator on the bench, as the Bulls (34-27) dropped to 6-10 in their last 16 games, as well as a 3-9 mark against their last 12 playoff-caliber opponents.
“It’s when he’s ready,’’ Thibodeau said of Rose. “We’re going to just keep going as we are. As long as he’s making steady progress, hopefully it happens, but we’re prepared either way.
“The big thing is no matter what you do in practice you’re not getting to a game-like intensity. You strive to get it as close to a game-like as you can. He has to be comfortable with where he is, and he has to do it for an extended period of time. We’ll know when he gets there, and as long as he’s moving in the right direction everything is good.’’
Rose, who underwent May surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, did continue his usual shootaround routine earlier in the day, and then took the court for his pregame workout about an hour before tip-off.
And it looked like short-handed would suit the Bulls just fine through the first half and into the third quarter once the game started, especially when Marco Belinelli hit a 30-footer to put the Bulls up 61-55 with 6:52 left in the third, forcing the Spurs to call a full timeout.
San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich knows a few things about making adjustments, and by the time the third ended, the Spurs were up 72-68, and never looked back.
Belinelli led the Bulls with 21 points, while Luol Deng chipped in 19, but it was once again not enough.
Not that the Bulls don’t know a few things about playing short-handed, considering they have now spent the first 61 games of the regular season short-handed, and while Thibodeau always makes a point to downplay that fact, stressing improvement first and foremost, power forward Carlos Boozer said that getting healthy in the next six weeks leading up to the playoffs was priority number one.
“Us being healthy, I think that’s the biggest thing,’’ Boozer explained. “We have a few guys that are out that we’re going to need in playoffs in the biggest way. That would be the No. 1 thing for me, being healthy. Two, the way we execute, be a little more efficient offensively. But the biggest thing is being healthy.
“Us being healthy gives us our best chance to be successful. Short-handed, not that we couldn’t do it, but our chances go down a little bit.’’