The Chicago Bulls sit atop the Eastern Conference at 4-1, the lone loss coming in overtime to a desperate Cleveland Cavaliers team. They rank seventh in defense and ninth in offense. Free agent signee Pau Gasol has made near seamless transitions on both ends of the floor, and Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson are playing arguably the best basketball of their careers. Things are great in the Windy City, basically, despite minor health maladies that have plagued the Bulls since preseason play.
As Chicago readies for tonight’s road game against the Philadelphia 76ers, there’s a chance that Tom Thibodeau will have his full roster available for the first time this season. At the very least, reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah will return to the court after missing the last two games due to illness. And if Derrick Rose makes rapid progress on sore sprained ankles that limited him versus Cleveland and kept him out of wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic, the Bulls will finally have their full complement of players in Philly.
As of this morning, though, it seems highly unlikely the 2011 MVP will play against the woebegone Sixers. Rose played on Wednesday versus the Milwaukee Bucks, registering 13 points and seven assists in 31 minutes. But the hyper-athletic point guard insists that he wasn’t himself against the Bucks, and is currently bothered enough by those blaky ankles that the prudent decision would be sitting him for the third time this season.
From K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
…[Rose] certainly didn’t sound like someone prepared to play after sitting out the morning shootaround.
“It’s a little sore,” Rose said of his ankles, which sidelined him for two games before he played Wednesday in Milwaukee. “You never know how something could turn out in the next couple hours so tonight when I come back in here really give it a warmup. If I can’t play, don’t worry about it. Just trying to be in here for the long haul.”
As frustrating as these minor nicks are for Rose and Chicago fans, the team is obviously best-served by proceeding with caution. Players are known to compensate in other places when uncomfortable in certain areas; the last thing that the Bulls or Rose need is for him to re-injure the fragile knees that kept him from play for what basically amounted to two full seasons.
Even Thibodeau, a member of the old-guard when it comes to player rest and minutes restrictions, echoed his superstar’s foresight:
“It’s his decision along with the medical people,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You have to trust them. They’re doing what’s best. If he’s not comfortable enough to go, I don’t want him out there. I feel really good about the guys we do have. We’re going to let Derrick work his way through it. We have to be patient.
“There are going to be some ups and some downs. He’s been out a long time. People tend to forget that. Everyone wants it back in a day. It doesn’t happen like that. When you miss the amount of time he has missed, it’s going to take awhile for him to get back. We all have to understand that.”
And frankly, there’s even less reason for an unhealthy Rose to play against the win-less Sixers than any other team in the league. The Bulls have proven they can beat a solid squad like Minnesota on the road without him; we’d be shocked if they fell to Philly with close to a full roster in tow.
These things take time, and Chicago stands to be rewarded long-term for its patience with Rose – at some point. In the meantime, the Bulls have already shown they can do more than get by while waiting for him to fully recover.
What do you think?
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