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Bulls prepared for drive without Rose

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By Sam Smith | 2.25.2015 | 6:23 p.m. CT

Yes, Derrick Rose is injured once again and facing a third knee surgery since May 2012. But, after all, the Bulls had two All-Stars this season not named Derrick Rose. They have a point guard who a few years ago averaged 19.6 per game starting and is the team’s best three point shooter. They have two reserve point guards, one of the top sixth men in the league at forward and two developing young players who both are excellent three point shooters. As well as last season’s Defensive Player of the Year backing up the East’s All-Star starting center.

You mean that team cannot compete in the Eastern Conference over the next six weeks even without Rose?

“They’ve been down this road before dealing with serious injuries,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said pregame Wednesday of his team in the first day of the rest of the Bulls life without Rose again. “We know when you are shorthanded what you have to do. We have to stick together, we have to fight. The games will continue to come. That’s our reality and we have to find a way to win.

“When you’ve gone through something before you have a better understanding of what you have to do,” said Thibodeau. “They’ve not only done it once, but they’ve done it a couple of times. The important thing for us is we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have great concern for Derrick. We care about him a lot, but we also have to get ourselves ready.”

And so it goes with 25 games left in the 2014-15 regular season.

Thibodeau said there were no new developments with Rose regarding surgery, which has yet to be performed. Rose and his doctors will determine the extent of the surgery and whether it is another repair, which would certainly mean an end to Rose season, or whether it is a different procedure with a so called cut and a shorter rehabilitation, perhaps four to six weeks.

That remains to be determined by surgery and consultation. So there is no way anyone knows yet which direction Rose and the Bulls will take.

But this Bulls team despite the setback of losing Rose seems still well positioned for a competitive remainder of the regular season. Obviously, it would be different in the playoffs without a big shot maker like Rose. But the Bulls are much better prepared for a major injury now than last season when Rose was hurt earlier in the season.

The Bulls slumped badly thereafter and it took more than a month for them to regain their edge. They certainly are devastated seeing Rose go down again and having to endure another painful and frustrating rehabilitation. But it is not as much a surprise this time given the history.

“Every situation is different,” said Thibodeau. “That (last time) was early in the season and on the road; injuries are part of it. The one good thing we do have is guys like Joakim (Noah) and Kirk (Hinrich) and Jimmy (Butler) have been through it. Then you add a guy like Pau (Gasol), who has been through a lot and seen a lot of different situations. I think we have strong leadership from that standpoint and a really good group of guys, so we have to go from here.”

There also remains a stronger possibility this time of a Rose return, though it’s no certainty even with the less invasive surgery. Obviously, everything depends on the surgery and the ability to return from it strong, both physically and mentally. But it has not been unusual for players to do so within two months, as Russell Westbrook did a year ago. That would be near the start of the playoffs, which the Bulls are certain to make with more than a 10-game lead on the bottom playoff spots.

Given the intensity of playoff situations, even if Rose could return, it probably would be in limited minutes. But even that could prove a psychological benefit for the team as well.

In the meantime, the Bulls appear well positioned to compete against most of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls are perhaps at a disadvantage against a team like Cleveland with LeBron James. But even without Rose, the Bulls matchup reasonably well with teams like Washington, Toronto and Atlanta. They have advantages over Atlanta and Toronto with size. And the development of Snell to go along with Butler and Dunleavy provides wing play to match any of the top teams, basically all of whom except Cleveland seem flawed in major ways.

And then you get on a playoff run or get Rose back even in limited action and who knows. This remains speculation and is optimistic. But the Bulls have had some success without Rose this season. They are 7-4 when he hasn’t played, including beating the Grizzlies and Clippers on the road. And in recent poor shooting games, the Bulls beat Milwaukee when Rose was one of 13, beat Orlando when he was four of 14, beat Boston when he was five of 18, beat Denver at seven of 25 and defeated Indiana when he was five of 20.

Not to say the Bulls are better without Rose or can have a high level of success. It’s difficult to see a great playoff run without Rose. But it remains a deep Bulls team with All-Stars and accomplished veterans. It should be a competitive group.

“He’s a tough guy,” Thibodeau said of Rose. “He’s been through a lot. We have a concern for what he’s going through. We’re going to support him any way possible. You all know how the team cares about him; that’s one of the great characteristics of this team, how they care about each other. We just care Derrick gets better. The main thing is he’s had two tough injuries and we’re hopeful this one is not as severe.

“You don’t replace a guy like Derrick with one person; it has to be a collective effort by everybody. Everybody in whatever roles they have,” said Thibodeau. “Kirk is still working his way back. As we did last year with D.J. (Augustin) and Kirk having that flexibility with two point guards on the floor. We have good talent, good depth. So we just have to get out there play hard, play together and play smart

“We’ve been through it 11 times this season,” Thibodeau said of Rose being out. “We feel good about the guys we do have and E’Twaun (Moore) as well. We have good wing depth. We’re getting healthy up front, which is a big plus, and we have some guys that can swing (between positions), go three to four and four to three. That versatility helps a lot.”