Derrick Rose missed only five games during the first three seasons of his NBA career. In 2011-2012, the exiting Chicago Bulls MVP has already missed 22 of the team’s 57 contests, and it seems that his 39 minutes return against the New York Knicks might have surfaced a new injury, adding to the long list that has plagued him this season.
Rose missed nearly a month of basketball due to a groin injury, returning on Sunday to face the New York Knicks. Rose scored 29 points in 39 minutes of action, clearly showing more than just a bit of rust, going 8-26 from the field. Worse, he missed to huge free throws in the fourth quarter, missing out on a win later on in overtime, including the potential game winner in overtime.
But missing a shot here and there on the way to full fitness isn’t the problem. The problem is Rose has aggravated his ankle, reportedly walking around with a walking boot, becoming a game time decision ahead of the Bulls’ home game against the Knicks later on Tuesday. The problem may have arisen because Rose played just a bit too much on his highly anticipated Garden return.
The Bulls have done well this season, with or without Rose. They’re 15-7 when their starting point guard is out, 28-7 with him. A big difference, but this isn’t exactly a complete collapse. C.J. Watson and John Lucas III are more than capable of combining for a suitable replacement. The Bulls have had plenty of other injuries as well this year, mostly Rip Hamilton, but Luol Deng has missed his fair share of games as well.
Tom Thibodeau has started with his original starting lineup (Rose-Hamilton-Deng-Boozer-Noah) only 11 times this season. Cohesion needs time to work on. If Rose starts missing games again, there’s a big question mark on the Bulls’ ability to put everything together when the playoffs begin. Even if he is healthy, Chicago have a thing or two to work on when they play offense. Even home court advantage won’t fix all those faults, like it wasn’t enough last season against the Heat.
The Bulls (43-14) are barely ahead of the Miami Heat (40-15) in the race for the top spot in the East. Leading by two games, playing two games more. I don’t think anyone wants to gamble on trying to win the East with the #2 seed in hand, but I do think that the team pushed a little too hard on the gas last season in an incredible finish, leaving them a bit out of breath when the big games in the playoffs began.
If Rose is good to go in the next few games, Thibodeau needs to take it easy on him. Freak accidents and injuries can happen, especially with Rose’s aggressive style, but there’s no need to play him nearly 40 minutes until you’re certain his completely back, rust-free and all. The Chicago Bulls have enough depth and skill in their team to give their MVP a bit more rest before it’s time for the big finish, and hopefully, long and happy-ending playoffs.