Chicago is getting accustomed to nights (like Wednesday) when Derrick Rose simply takes a breather
POSTED: Feb 25, 2016 11:34 AM ET
After missing Wednesday's game, Derrick Rose has appeared in 85 percent of Chicago's games in 2015-16.
CHICAGO — A missed game here, a missed game there. At this rate, Derrick Rose is going to play only 70 games for the Chicago Bulls this season -- and someone should probably Tweet out #firstworldproblem to keep this all in perspective.
To date, Rose has appeared in 48 of Chicago's 56 games -- or 85 percent of them. Rose appearing in 70 games in any of his previous four NBA seasons would have been a cause for celebration. The Bulls and their fans would have been thrilled to have had their former All-Star and MVP point guard 85 percent of the time, playing with 85 percent of the effectiveness and sizzle he flaunted at the 2010-11 peak of his powers.
Thrilled? Tom Thibodeau might still be coaching them if he'd had Rose in the lineup 85 percent of the time in their five seasons together rather than the 46 percent he got. Chicago's winning percentage when Thibodeau and Rose paired up was .729, better than Phil Jackson's .704 career mark. But Thibodeau coached 213 times without Rose vs. 181 with him.
I love the way I'm playing. I feel like I'm playing to win. I feel like I'm in a good mood, a great place mentally. Just trying not to risk all of it by going out there and playing crazy.
– Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose
All of which is to say, if this is how it's going to go for Rose and the Bulls from now on -- the abrupt, occasional absence once every seven games or so, on average -- it's a minor inconvenience relative to what their reality had been over the past three or four years.
No one liked it when Rose essentially scratched himself from the lineup slightly more than an hour before Wednesday's game against the Washington Wizards. Not Bulls teammates, who already had to face Eastern Conference foes while fighting for playoff-worthy survival without Jimmy Butler (left knee strain), Nikola Mirotic (appendicitis) and Joakim Noah (shoulder surgery).
Not the fans at United Center, who'd already bought their tickets and had been buoyed by Rose's recent performances (26.0 ppg, 4.7 apg, 57.4 percent shooting in three games since the All-Star break, a 21.9 scoring average in February). Not ESPN, which had locked into the game as a national telecast, hoping to play up the Rose vs. John Wall matchup of past and current All-Star guards. Certainly not Wall, who craves a greater profile but wound up with the wrong kind of attention after he and the Wizards lost the game, 109-104, to a depleted Bulls squad.
It might just be that Rose, when he's able to avoid the big, traumatic injuries, is just a 60- or 65-game guy in an 82-game league. Many players increasingly are, given evolving attitudes about rest and body maintenance. The new normal for a lot of the league's stars seems to be, either you take a few games off voluntarily or you'll sit out that many or more involuntarily.
"Just don't want to take any risks," said Rose, who didn't play Wednesday due to lingering soreness in his right hamstring. "I love the way I'm playing. I feel like I'm playing to win. I feel like I'm in a good mood, a great place mentally. Just trying not to risk all of it by going out there and playing crazy."
Wizards vs. Bulls
Taj Gibson and E'Twaun Moore each score 17 points as the Bulls backups beat the Wizards 109-104 in Chicago.
It's not ideal. But coach Fred Hoiberg, his first season held a little hostage by injuries heaped onto the inevitable learning curves and trust issues, said he's on board with Rose's cautious approach. As for teammates, they learned long ago how powerless they are in their point guard's endless battle against infernal injuries. Better to deal with the occasional outpatient stuff than to have him spend months in ICU, medical-metaphorically speaking.
"It's not up to us to trust his body," forward Taj Gibson said. "We're not his brain. All we can do is ask him how he's feeling and trust that he knows what's best for himself. Everybody's professional. He's been in this league a long time now. So we know -- when he's hurt, he's hurt. You've just got to respect it."
There might be no way around it, not as long as Rose is making massive money ($20 million this season, $21.3 million next) or Bulls management is committed to keeping the native of Chicago's South Side integral to its plans.
Bulls fans know better than to breathe too hard in Rose's direction, lest he fall and break himself again. Now, and likely for the rest of his career, any praise sent his way for how well he's playing invariably will be accompanied by knuckles rapping hardwood so as not to tempt fate.
The speculation over Rose and Butler co-existing in the same backcourt remains hypothetical for now (they're 6-2 without Rose this season, 4-4 without Butler). E'Twaun Moore found himself in the unlikely anchor spot for the Bulls' dramatic introductions, though the P.A. announcer missed a golden opportunity to tout the backup from Purdue as being "Frommm EAST Chicago!..."
Meanwhile, Wall was reminded that it's possible to have an off night without taking the night off.
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