Bulls draw on recent past to remain upbeat, confident
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media April 29, 2012 9:24PM
Updated: June 1, 2012 8:16AM
Not much changed in the 24 hours since an MRI exam revealed that guard Derrick Rose would have to undergo left knee surgery and embark on a recovery that could last eight months.
An NBA title was still the Bulls’ goal, and their next-man-up mentality was evident in players’ comments.
The players tried to remain upbeat after practice Sunday, but the severity of the situation couldn’t be minimized.
“It’s horrible, the situation that we’re in, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” forward Carlos Boozer said.
“We’ve still got to go out there and play games and win, and that’s our goal. Our goal is to win a championship, and that’s not going to change.”
The Bulls’ confidence isn’t baseless.
The team needn’t look far back to remember when it was last in this situation. Rose missed nearly half the regular season, and the Bulls (50-16) were able to come out of it tied for the best record in the league with the San Antonio Spurs.
The Bulls weren’t foolish enough to think they could replace Rose, but it didn’t mean their confidence in replacement C.J. Watson had waned.
Watson is talented enough to start for several NBA teams. It just so happens that he plays the same position on the same team as the league’s reigning MVP.
“We’ve been here before,” Boozer said. “No matter who has been out, we’ve performed.
‘‘Just think of this season. We didn’t have Derrick for 27 games, and guys stepped up and played well in his absence. You can’t replace a guy like that individually. You try to replace him as a team collectively.”
Without Rose, there will be schematic changes to the offense, but its principles will remain the same. The Bulls will rely on their defense more than ever, though, and understand there’s more pressure on each individual.
“We’re a defensive group, we share the ball offensively, we go inside-out, we have low turnovers, and that doesn’t change no matter who’s in the lineup,” Boozer said. “Obviously, it’s that much more important now with Derrick being out. We’ve got to take care of the ball.”
Before losing Game 1, the Philadelphia 76ers were confident they drew a favorable matchup.
The Rose injury could leave them thinking that a series victory is there for the taking.
“I could care less how they think about what’s going on, what the situation is, if they think they’re going to have an easy task,” guard John Lucas III said.
“We’re just going to go out there and play.”