Chicago Bulls v New York Knicks
Updated: May 12, 2012 8:20AM
What are the Bulls in the playoffs without Derrick Rose?
Is it possible we may have to find out?
With only about two weeks left in the season — eight remaining games for the Bulls — it’s looking more and more as if Rose is a wounded warrior suffering not from a single major injury but from a host of lesser insults.
He is a butterfly that hasn’t been run over by a truck, but has been nipped at by assorted birds, cats and tree frogs. One that has flown full-tilt into glass windows. One that has a busted antenna and a buckled thorax.
‘‘We don’t want him to change the way he plays,’’ Bulls president John Paxson said at the United Center before Tuesday night’s game. ‘‘Nobody wants that.’’
And yet, it seems likely that Rose’s hell-for-leather style of play has been a large contributor to the toe, back, groin and ankle injuries that have kept him out of 23 of the Bulls’ 58 games. He has said his entire game is predicated ‘‘on speed, and I don’t know how to play without speed.’’ That explosiveness has always been there for him, and until this season, it has never betrayed him.
But there he was, 90 minutes before game time, jogging onto the court for a combination workout/evaluation.
Wearing an ‘‘NBA Green’’ T-shirt over his game uniform, Rose started in close to the basket, shooting one-footers and then moving back along the baseline incrementally as assistant coach Ron Adams fed him balls. Rose went on his tiptoes as he shot, putting little pressure on his now-injured right ankle, moving back and back to the three-point line, where he made nine of 11 shots.
Then he moved to other spots on the court, the drill continuing until he had taken more than 150 shots.
Then followed one-handed free throws, half-speed ladder drills from the half-court line to the baseline, shuffle defensive drills and backpedals followed by bursts straight forward.
On the sideline, Paxson and general manager Gar Forman sat silently watching.
Rose talked to doctors, trainers. Signaling to Paxson and Forman, the group left for a meeting room near the locker room.
Diagnosis: Rose was out.
Paxson had said he was almost certain the lockout and speed-up season were responsible for Rose’s breakdown, something that never happened to him before. Indeed, Rose had missed only six games in his previous three NBA seasons.
‘‘There was hardly any training camp,’’ Paxson said. ‘‘The conditioning was different. Nobody knows for sure, but the season must be a contributor.’’
So we are left with an unsatisfied feeling, a sense the Bulls are in the realm of could-have-been.
The starting lineup of Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Rip Hamilton seems like a contender for the NBA championship. Especially with C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Taj Gibson, John Lucas III and Kyle Korver off the bench.
The 2012 Bulls look like a solid team. But we may never see that team healthy for one moment in the postseason. We have barely seen those players together at any point this season.
Rose seems as perplexed as anyone about his injuries, not to mention the wounds to Hamilton, Deng and Watson that have kept the Bulls from being whole.
The 23-year-old reigning MVP apparently has a baby coming in the near future. The Bulls likely will enter the playoffs as the best team in the league. Or rather, the one with the best record in the league. Will Rose have even more distractions than those caused by his ailing body? Who can say.
What the team actually is, what it can accomplish, we have no idea.
The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday ran a column by Chris Herring stating, ‘‘The Bulls are Rose’s team. Yet somehow, it hasn’t mattered that he has been out for over a third of this season.’’
Yes, the Bulls have won without Rose. But they are not a superpower without him.
This is a fact.
This is painful.