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Bulls lose their best player in Rose but not drive to win a title

Published: Monday, April 30, 2012 10:25 a.m. CST
Caption
(Photo by Ron Cortes/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT)
The Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose is down after he injured his knee in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round series at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, on Saturday April 28, 2012. The Bulls won, 103-91, but Rose's season is over.

CHICAGO (MCT) — Derrick Rose spent Sunday at home, surrounded by friends and family, processing the reality that the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee will prevent him from playing the game he loves for anywhere from six to nine months.

His teammates and coaches spent Sunday at the Berto Center, continuing their dream of chasing an NBA championship despite losing their best player.

Remember when Rose defiantly and surprisingly asked why he couldn’t be the league’s most valuable player in October 2010 — then went and earned it?

Similar defiance and confidence emanated following Sunday’s brief workout, with players and coaches figuratively asking: Why can’t the Bulls still win the title?

“We’re not going to start backing down now,” Joakim Noah said. “We’re a team of fighters. We’re going to keep fighting and make the city proud.

“The whole team has to step up. Our margin of error is a lot smaller with Derrick out. Can you replace Derrick? No. But we’re not going to let the media or anybody paint the picture for us. We’ve played well without Derrick before.”

Coach Tom Thibodeau, who has been texting Rose support, said no death sentence has been issued for his injured point guard or the team. With C.J. Watson starting, John Lucas III and Mike James backing him up and an 18-9 regular-season mark with Rose out, confidence reigned.

“You’re not going to replace the greatness of Derrick,” Thibodeau said. “We have to do that collectively as a team.

“We feel awful for him but it’s not going to change our goals at all. Everyone has to do a little more. That’s what we did when he was out previously. It’s been an unusual season where he’s had a number of injuries. We’ve been a team that has responded to challenges all season. This is the next one.”

General manager Gar Forman, who visited Rose at the hospital Saturday night before he got discharged to go home, said the team will let Rose’s swelling subside and range of motion return before surgery. Though Jamal Crawford used noted surgeon James Andrews when Crawford tore his ACL as a Bull in July 2001, current team physician Brian Cole is experienced in such surgeries as well.

The team will work with Rose and his camp to formulate a medical plan.

“We’re confident he’ll come back physically at 100 percent, if not at 110 percent,” Forman said. “Whatever obstacle is thrown at Derrick, he fights through it. That’s the core of who Derrick is. He has a lot of toughness, both mental and physical. He’ll put all his energy into his rehab after surgery.”

Forman could be seen laughing and smiling with Thibodeau and executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson on the practice floor. He admitted to obviously feeling sorry for Rose but joined the chorus of those not accepting sympathy for the Bulls’ championship chances.

“We’ve got a team that has been a team in the truest sense,” Forman said. “Whether it was Derrick or anybody else, when we had players go down, we had others step up. I know we’re confident we’ll be able to continue having success. They’ll bond together and play hard like they always have. Our bench has been great all year.”

Thibodeau has used 10 players regularly all season. Though nobody can match Rose’s dynamic offensive ability and explosiveness, Thibodeau believes the team’s offense has more depth this season.

“We’ve shown that,” he said. “You look at the games Derrick missed and we had John scoring, C.J. scoring. We didn’t have (Richard Hamilton) for a lot of those games and he’s rounding into shape. Carlos (Boozer) can score. We have six guys in double figures. We feel we have enough to score.”

And eventually, Rose will return. At what level, nobody is sure.

“You don’t want him to change what his strengths are,” Thibodeau said. “I think experience teaches you things. In terms of his playmaking and how he ran the team, I thought he was doing a great job. I thought he had a different understanding of all the defenses that were being played against him and where the holes were in those defenses. And he also had a very good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of his teammates.

“I expect him to pick up where he left off. Nobody has done more for the team or organization. We have to just be patient and know he will be fully recovered.”

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