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Bulls prepared if Derrick Rose goes down — unlike Bears were when Jay Cutler got hurt

 Derrick Rose will sit out tonight vs. Kings.  | Getty Images

Derrick Rose will sit out tonight vs. the Kings. | Getty Images

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Updated: February 7, 2012 8:31AM

What if Derrick Rose went down?

Would the Bulls become the Bears of basketball, a reeling ship with the captain/quarterback overboard and a conscripted nobody such as, say, Caleb Hanie at the wheel?

Point guards aren’t the same as quarterbacks, but they’re close.

Rose and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler have about the same power on their respective teams.

And we now know for sure that if you don’t have a quality backup for the guy who runs your offense, you’ll sink like the Bears did, going from a rising 7-3 to a barnacle-encrusted 8-8.

During the Bulls’ road victory Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons, Rose drove to the basket, rose high, then went down hard on his left elbow after a foul by Pistons forward Damien Wilkins.

As the reigning most valuable player of the league lay on the floor, clutching his elbow in pain, the thought went through every Bulls fan’s brain: Dear God, what if our star is hurt?

Fortunately, he wasn’t. Not this time. He’ll ice the joint and play Friday against the Magic in Orlando, he said.

But a more serious injury might come to Rose, whose game is built on fearless — almost reckless — assaults on the rim, soaring through midair, stopping and starting as if born half-jack rabbit.

The ways Rose could be hurt in a swift, leaping sport ruled by giants protecting the orange ring are too many to count. You don’t even want to think about it.

‘Derrick Rose happened’

But after seeing the way the Bears crashed and died after Cutler went out with a broken thumb, you almost have to.

At home Tuesday against the Atlanta Hawks, the Bulls looked terrible early on, firing up so many bricks in the first three quarters that it seemed the rim would crack. In the second quarter alone, they shot 2-for-21, pretty much what you can do blindfolded. Their 42 points after three quarters were the fewest in NBA history for a team that eventually would win.

So who took over at the end, seemingly in pure disgust?

Rose, of course.

He had 17 points, a blocked shot and two assists in the wild fourth quarter of a 76-74 comeback victory.

I was there, and I swear the Hawks knew it was going to happen. As the fourth quarter started, Rose’s eyes seemed to be like those of programmed robot. Hawks center Al Horford as much as acknowledged it when he was asked what happened.

‘‘Derrick Rose happened,’’ he said.

Rose refused to say the Hawks were intimidated, even though they had a 19-point lead.

‘‘I felt bad for our fans to see us playing that bad,’’ he said in the locker room. ‘‘It was embarrassing.’’

‘Deepest team in the league’

Now a guy like that, if he goes out the way Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph just did with torn knee ligaments or the way San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili just did with a broken left hand, well, you’re thinking disaster.

But Bulls general manager
Gar Forman already has done
the disaster thinking you’re
now doing.

‘‘It’s difficult,’’ he admitted. ‘‘You’re not just going to replace a superstar like LeBron James or Dwyane Wade or Dwight Howard or Derrick. Nobody can just step in.

‘‘But we have C.J. Watson backing Rose, and we like what he can do. Derrick started 81 games last year, and C.J. started one — against Denver, when Rose was hurt — and C.J. did pretty well.’’

Indeed, he did. To the tune of 33 points, three assists, three rebounds and two steals.

Not Rose, but Rosy.

That Watson is nursing a sprained left elbow, like Rose, is kind of a scary thought. Third-string? The Bulls run by little John Lucas III?

But you build a team as best you can, and Forman thinks the Bulls are in damn fine shape, considering all hell can break loose at any moment.

He even had an intern crunch all the numbers of an ESPN study that ranked every player in the NBA from No. 1 to No. 450, basing the ranking on the player’s perceived talent and value.

What came up?

‘‘We were No. 1 in the league,’’ Forman said. ‘‘Ahead of everybody. The deepest team in the league.’’

Is that good news or what, Bulls fans?

‘‘Of course, it’s all subjective,’’ Forman added quickly. ‘‘But we have depth with our big men, and we were the only team to have four players in the top 50: Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.’’

Said Rose recently: ‘‘I’m the one who leads the team.’’

He’s right. And nobody wants to find out what happens if he’s gone.

But it’s good to hear the Bulls are prepared.

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