It was an unfortunate turn of events that saw a city’s collective heart skip a beat. The reigning NBA MVP lay on the floor, with just over a minute left and his team up by 14 points over the eighth seeded Philadelphia 76ers.
Then came the bad news. He was done for the year (read: playoffs) due to a torn ACL, and so (presumably) were the Chicago Bulls chances at an NBA championship.
This isn’t to say the Bulls, who owned the Eastern Conference’s best record despite Derrick Rose only playing 39 of his teams 66 games, can’t make a run and compete for the conference. I fully expect them to be there battling it out with Miami. What I don’t foresee, is Chicago having enough to withstand the Heat in a seven-game series.
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe all those games without Rose this past season prepared the Bulls adequately enough to withstand this kind of loss to their lineup. Maybe I am overlooking the fact that with Rose going down the Bulls aren’t necessarily better (he won the MVP for a reason) but a different kind of better. I don’t fault the head coach for this injury as most are quick to do. Tom Thibodeau is one of the best coaches you will find in this league or any other for that matter. While we are quick to point out that Rose shouldn’t have been in the game, lets look at the reasons he may have been out there. And legitimate ones they are.
First off Thibodeau, who pointed out after the game that the score was “going the other way” was correct in his assessment. The Bulls did in fact hold a sizable lead but it was cut down to just 10 after an 8-2 Sixers run with 1:09 to go. Until a Carlos Boozer jumper went in at :59 seconds the game was getting too tight for comfort. During playoff time, even in a 1v8 match-up, every game counts.
The second (and in my opinion most important) fact is that Rose played only five of his teams final 22 games of the regular season. Why wouldn’t you put your best player on the floor for as long as possible to help him get his legs back under him? It makes sense to have him out there running the offense as long as possible because that’s critical time and reps needed for later rounds which, understandably, their head coach presumed they would be in.
I don’t see many challengers in the East outside of Chicago. Indianapolis is a strong squad, but not one on the same level when Chicago is truly on their game. That said I don’t see many intriguing results in this conference without Rose and the Bulls at full capacity.