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Bulls lose to Orlando while hoping Rose magically appears
by Sam Smith
Posted on Oct 20
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So it’s just after the Bulls probably yielded the preseason Eastern Conference championship to the Orlando Magic Monday by losing 101-98, and Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro was talking about how the team wants to get Derrick Rose back and how the guard ranks are a bit thin without Rose and that Rose is coming along but is day to day.
So I dug into my deepest powers of observation and mentioned to Vinny that well, uh, Derrick’s been day to day now for two and a half weeks.
That didn’t sound so promising. Forget Waldo. Where’s Derrick?
Could it be that Rose won’t even be ready for the season opener next week, Oct. 29 on TNT at home against the Spurs?
“Yes,” Del Negro conceded. “It is in the realm of possibility. I hope that it isn’t. It’s a concern. It’s an unusual injury, a different injury. We want to make sure he’s healed up. He’s gotten a little better every day. I don’t want to bring him back and the next day he’s sore, or the next day it’s reinjured already. I want to make sure he can heal. When he feels he can play at the level without injuring himself (he’ll be back). It is a long year.”
So patience is understandable given you don’t want Rose’s injury to linger or for him to tweak it and then be out again. So the Bulls wait, though Rose said after Del Negro addressed reporters that he is much improved and even hopes to play at least a brief time Friday in the team’s final preseason game.
Of course, he has said things like that before. And Del Negro did add Monday if it were a regular season game Rose could not have played. So he isn’t quite ready. But Rose insists not far away.
“I just want a couple minutes (Friday),” Rose said. “I want to be out there. I can’t lie. I’m praying I get out there. They haven’t said anything. If they see me running right or I trick them, I’ll be out there playing. It’s not my ankle. It’s a tendon in my ankle. It had fluid on it. That’s why it took so long. They wanted the fluid to get out of my ankle.
“Today I was doing tempo runs and using the med ball. I’m about 80 percent,” Rose decided. “Hopefully (Tuesday) I’ll be practicing (though Del Negro said there’ll be no contact games for Rose). I’ll be playing for sure (in the season opener).
“It was a freak accident (against the Pacers in the opener),” Rose said. “This is my first serious injury ever. This is the longest I’ve ever sat out. It’s been kind of crazy. I’m kind of mad. But when you’re sitting out, you see a lot of plays, who was open on offensive plays, defense, who was supposed to move over. You see a lot of things not playing. But it’s killing me not to be out there. In the beginning, I was kind of nervous. They moved up the medicine and I had to get more treatment. After a week or so, it’s been getting better. Hopefully tomorrow, I will be jumping right again.”
And do it goes. It sounds like Rose is close to returning. But it also sounds like everyone is uncertain just what the problem is and fearful it could worsen. It’s a huge concern because without Rose (and Ben Gordon gone) the Bulls could struggle. No big surprise. Any team loses it’s best player, it’s going to have difficulties.
And it’s not just preseason now. It’s the final two games, which is when teams begin to prepare their rotations for the opener. The Magic, which was led by Dwight Howard with 18 points and 10 rebounds and went to 6-0 in the preseason, didn’t play Rashard Lewis because he’ll sit out the first 10 games with a substance suspension. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who has my vote for preseason coach of the year after his team overcame nine fourth quarter lead changes to win, began employing more regular rotations aimed at the first weeks of the season.
For the Bulls, led by John Salmons with 19 points and Kirk Hinrich with 18, it was more hit and miss and experimentation. The Bulls played down the stretch with Luol Deng at shooting guard, Tyrus Thomas at small forward and Taj Gibson at power forward, a rotation Del Negro said we could see again given their size.
I would hope not.
Salmons and Hinrich both played well, Hinrich hitting eight of 12 with his most deft shotmaking of the preseason while Salmons works himself back into shape after missing a few games with the birth of his child.
“I’m definitely trying to be more aggressive, get back into things and get my rhythm,” said Salmons, who added he’s comfortable at shooting guard given the small forward and shooting guard are interchangeable the way the Bulls play. “We’re trying to get where teams can’t focus in on one person. We had six people in double figures (Monday). That’s what we’ll try to do. I’m comfortable at two. On this team, the biggest difference is on defense, who you guard.”
Not so guarded was Thomas, coming off his impressive 22 points and 13 rebounds Saturday over Minnesota but still coming off the bench behind Gibson.
Thomas had a quiet 10 points and three rebounds in 26 minutes and said before the game he was disappointed not to be starting.
“I care (about starting) because I’m a competitor,” Thomas said. “I like to win whether it’s preseason or not. I feel like I’ve put my time in with this team. I feel I’ve worked and did the things I need to do to solidify that. I don’t think it’s even questionable. Nothing against Taj. He’s been playing great. As far as what I’ve done for this team and what I’ve done this season, as far as practicing in camp (I should have earned starting). I’ve been working hard. I’m older, smarter. I’ve learned to pick my battles, knowing what I have to do to be a better Tyrus.”
Asked about what it is he feels he brings, Thomas said: “An impact player. Period. A game changer. Period. You (media) guys have watched me for three years. You know what I bring to the table. But (the coach is) the guy who makes the decisions. Whatever decision he makes, I have to go play.”
Thomas finally did Monday with 2:13 left in the first quarter and the Bulls trailing 25-21. Salmons and Hinrich carried the Bulls early and Brad Miller looked more into it as he finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Thomas played just seven minutes in the first half and was scoreless as Orlando led 47-45.
The Magic—rare for a Finals team—come into the season with four of their top rotation players new. Their defense was a bit suspect as the Bulls shot 50 percent and led by nine in the third quarter. But Vince Carter and Matt Barnes shot the Magic back into it, and it was a spirited fourth quarter as Thomas came on with six points, though the Magic kept him off the boards and shooting jumpers while Hinrich added nine.
The last two minutes of game time took some 20 minutes with a welter of timeouts as a Ryan Anderson jumper and three (he also had 18) offset a late Hinrich three before seven Orlando free throws in the last 22.9 seconds. The Bulls had a few chances at a tying shot but lost a tip and committed a turnover to fall to 5-2 for the preseason.
It was a tough game for Joakim Noah, who had eight points and couldn’t keep Howard out of the paint, and Luol Deng, who had 10 points but had to manufacture most of his shots from isolations, which aren’t his strength. He perhaps most misses the movement in the offense that Rose could provide.
The Bulls need a Rose by only that name. When they’ll get him still remains a thorny question.
Del Negro said Hinrich has a minor elbow problem and Jannero Pargo a back issue, though both continue to play. Free agent Derrick Byars got a bad break when he suffered a hyperextended knee after playing about four minutes. He said X-rays were negative and he plans to return to practice soon, especially given his hopes of making the team.
I also ran across an amusing discussion in the locker room before the game as the rookies, Gibson and James Johnson, the latter with zero points and 11 minutes, were intently quizzing Jerome James on what it’s like to be dunked on by Shaq. James insisted it happened to him just once, though Shaq did do his little airplane escape afterward, James said. The rookies then discussed how it would look to be dunked on by different players, though they did agree it won’t against J.J. Redick. The NBA. It is Fun-Tastic.