To foul or not foul, that is the question…


Mar 12

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So am I the only one angry about Derrick Rose’s sprained left wrist in still another collision with Dwight Howard?

“I’m not angry at all,” Rose said before the Bulls played the Miami Heat with Rose out with his sprained–fortunately not broken or fractured–wrist. “It’s basketball. People get hurt like this in the park. I’m not worried about it.”

Neither was coach Vinny Del Negro, who had to open with a starting lineup of basically not one player who was expected to be an NBA starter this season: Jannero Pargo, Kirk Hinrich (OK, perhaps), James Johnson, Taj Gibson and Brad Miller in a crucial game with potential playoff ramifications.

“I don’t think it was anything malicious,” said Del Negro. “I think they just got caught in the air again. I was worried about that in Chicago (in February when Rose injured his hip running into Howard). The wrist is the most dangerous. Luckily, it is only a sprained wrist, no structural damage or anything. It’s day to day and hopefully we’ll get Derrick back soon.”

Rose wasn’t sure when he’d play next. He said if the wrist improves since it’s not very sore and he’s unable to play, he wants to play Tuesday in Memphis, where he went to college for one year.

“I’d love to play (Memphis Tuesday) there,” said Rose. “If it’s feeling good, feeling better than today I’m definitely playing. I’m basically a left hand player. I dribble with my left hand a lot. Drive to the left. The game will be harder trying to go out and play knowing my left hand isn’t there.

“It hurts,” Rose said as he laid his arm gingerly at his side when he spoke with reporters in his locker stall. “I’ve really never had (any) wrist injuries. Definitely hurt. Can’t really dribble the ball. Last night, I was having problems sleeping on it.

Right when it happened I was thinking, ‘Not again!’

“Right when I got hit I had crick in my neck,” Rose added. “It was like a car accident.”

A truck named Dwight, the self proclaimed Superman who was a bit on the arrogant side when explaining the play after the game, suggesting Rose wasn’t jumping correctly (off one foot and not two) and when you run into someone like him you should expect something to happen.

Howard has gotten pretty full of himself these days with his super hero act, though it has been interesting to watch him back off around Shaquille O’Neal.

The problem for the Bulls is, even at O’Neal’s advanced age, they don’t have anyone who seems to want to take the action back toward Howard.

The NBA isn’t, either. I asked a league spokesman whether they would take a look at the play to determine whether any further action was required against Howard. The answer was there would be nothing further regarding the play or Howard.

But if you are the Bulls, do you let your best guy, your star, get knocked out twice in a season by the same player? We remember Howard’s play on a Rose drive just before the All Star break. The league and the officials working those games didn’t seem to feel there was no attempt at the ball, which is required. Several Bulls watched the tape of the play before the game and it did look a bit like Rose got to the basket so fast that Howard didn’t react quickly enough and tried to move his arm into position for a block as he went into Rose with his body.

But whether clean or not, do you then have to take a stand for your teammate?

That’s a question being raised and which was raised with Del Negro before the game.

Isn’t the hard foul an NBA tradition, especially when one of your guys goes down?

But it doesn’t seem to be in the DNA of this Bulls group.

“The two times Derrick’s been hit has been by Dwight,” Del Negro acknowledged. “They had a collision at the basket and Dwight’s size and strength and everything and Derrick is coming down. But Derrick is so athletic. I don’t want to take that away from his game. As he continues to get older and understand things better maybe he’ll be able to absorb things better. But I don’t think it was malicious and I like that Derrick’s attacking the basket.

“It would be different if it was a malicious thing, if he came over and it was dirty or something going on,” said Del Negro. “When you watch the play, I don’t feel either one was. Dwight was trying to protect the basket, which he’s supposed to do. Derrick was being aggressive going to the basket. They’re up high, and you want to respond a little bit. But I don’t think you want to respond just in spite. You have to pick your spots and be smart about it.

“We’re lacking bodies,” Del Negro noted. “All of a sudden we start hacking away (and what happens?). We got in foul trouble last night and we don’t have a lot of bodies to go to with everyone out. It sounds good. but there’s only so many players right now.”

And there’s only one franchise player, which is the issue. Del Negro said Noah is getting closer to a return, though in limited minutes. Del Negro said they hope to get Noah on the court working out next week. Luol Deng remains day to day. But none of it really matters much without Rose.

And it raises the old question in sports, especially in this era. What can you do? How much should you do? In another era, it was an easy question. When someone was taunting or taking a shot, fair or not, you’d look around, decide who didn’t have many fouls or who was named Charles Oakley and deliver a message.

The NBA is harsher on that type of stuff now, but the Bulls also don’t have an enforcers’ mentality, which remains one of the weaknesses on the team. Even if Del Negro and Rose thought it was a fair play, sometimes you have to send a message if only to embolden yourselves. And the Bulls haven’t exactly been defending of late.

If you’re not beating them, at least let them know you’re in the building. The Bulls were doing that in a good opening sequence in the first quarter of Friday’s game. But you can never allow an opponent—any opponent—believe they (or he) can punish your best player and not have to know there is some result.

“I tried to brace myself,” related Rose. “Came down wrong. Came down on my wrist. Swelled up. Went and got an MRI. Said it wasn’t nothing but a bruise. Just trying to fight through it. When you run into a guy like that he’s definitely going to hurt you. Somehow I’ve got to brace myself going in there.

“It’s basketball,” said Rose, who was said to be so upset at having to leave the game Thursday he was in tears in the locker room. “You’re going to get hit when you go to the hole. I’ve got to find a way to be able to…when I come out of the air to land right. That’s on me.

“Other than me twisting, I don’t know what happened,” added Rose, who said he got a text about the play from Howard. “I know I hit his body and my biggest thing was bracing myself for the fall. If I didn’t put my hand down I don’t know what would be the injury then.

Thank God I didn’t break anything or fracture anything in my wrist. I’m thankful for that. I was just hoping it wasn’t broken. They were telling me there are a lot of bones in your wrist. They were telling me from the x-ray it didn’t look like there was anything fractured or broke.”

Fortunately not for Rose. But there’s a bit of a divide in how to assure it doesn’t occur again.

While perhaps the larger question, even though Rose would have no part of the discussion, is whether Rose questions whether it’s a team that has his back. He says he believes the Bulls do and supports his teammates. Rose has all season been a willing teammate and regularly expressed admiration for his teammates. He still does. They seem to appreciate and like him. Perhaps a bit more reciprocity in a show of force is in order at some point. It also might not be bad for their defensive mindset.

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