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Rose hurt in Bulls loss to Trail Blazers
by Sam Smith
Posted on Nov 23
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I’m out of jokes and witty repartee. Our greatest concerns as basketball fans were on display again late Friday night in Portland as Derrick Rose, headphones covering a black stocking cap, hobbled on crutches leaving the arena after Portland’s 98-95 victory over the Bulls.
Rose suffered an apparent right knee injury with 3:30 remaining in the third quarter with the Trail Blazers in the midst of overcoming a 21-point Bulls lead. Rose, with a season-high 20 points in perhaps his most ambitious game of the season, was making a back door cut and appeared to slip and have his right knee buckle without any contact. He went to the bench, and then he was helped to the locker room by team staff as Rose appeared unable to put weight on his right leg. It was his left knee, of course, where he suffered his catastrophic anterior cruciate ligament injury in April 2012.
“The doctor looked at him but he’s scheduled to have an MRI [Saturday in Los Angeles],” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, declining to elaborate in any detail. “He has pain and felt like he couldn’t push off the right knee.”
“I don’t want to speculate on what it is or what it might be other than my concern for him,” said Thibodeau. “I know how much work he’s put into his rehab; that’s the type of person he is, that’s the type of player he is. I feel for him because of all the things that he does mean to our team.
“Change of direction or just running,” Thibodeau added about the injury, which seemed at first glance just a slip. “I don’t think it was a contact play. Anytime anyone goes down you are concerned. Derrick’s a hard guy to read. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion. But we are concerned.”
No one wants to speculate because no one—not just Bulls fans but NBA fans, sports fans, fans of special athletic achievement and decency—wants to believe after all Rose went through in 18 bitter months of rehabilitation and looking so healthy as he has this season that he could be seriously injured once again.
It would again be a blow to everyone who appreciates the grace and beauty of the sport.
Concerns on Twitter poured in from players all around the NBA from the famous and not so, like Paul George, Jamal Crawford, Jarrett Jack, John Lucas and Ekpe Udoh. The phones of Bulls players and staffers lit up with hopes and questions about Rose. Fans flooded the internet expressing concerns.
“I’m hoping for the best,” said Taj Gibson with Bulls players stunned and answering hesitantly in once again being asked about the health of Rose after now, just 11 games into his thrilling return. “He’s going to get the MRI tomorrow and we’ll see. Hopefully it’s nothing serious. He’s a strong guy. He worked extremely hard this summer trying to get his body right, working out every day. So, it sucks that this has to happen.
“He said he’s feeling OK, but he has to wait and see what the MRI says,” added Gibson, one of the players who spoke to Rose afterward. “He’s in good (spirits). His head was high; he wasn’t down, not feeling bad for himself. Just got to see what happens.
“Things like this happen all the time,” said Gibson. “Guys have to step in and do their job. For Derrick, keep high the hopes that it’s not too serious.”
Players shrugged and responded with uncertainty as no one knew the answer to the big question.
“I don’t know, don’t know,” said Luol Deng quietly. “He said he’s sore, so we’ll see. On the bench, he said his knee was not feeling great. Just got to pick it up.”
Joakim Noah asked reporters what they’d heard, how it looked.
“Just frustrated,” said Noah. “Sucks to lose. We’ve got to step it up and hope Derrick is all right, play better. Teams are playing harder than us. When teams make a run we’re all over the place; we’re not disciplined, everybody is frustrated, everybody is screaming at the refs instead of focusing on the next task at hand. It’s everybody. Lets learn from it and hope Derrick is all right.”
There really weren’t many words to express the depth of disappointment given not only what Rose means to the Bulls but also the NBA as still one of the most popular NBA players in the world based on measures like jersey sales. But also being so close to Rose and knowing how much he loves the game and seeing him again needing help to walk had to be brutal for his teammates.
It’s yet another one of those life is not fair moments when the double team of despair and depression is too suffocating to overcome.
The obvious hope is it’s some sort of minor injury that keeps Rose out a short time and nothing major that would require more surgery. No one even wants to address those possibilities. It’s too loathsome to contemplate.
Not after such a wonderful return.
Yes, there was plenty of criticism of Rose when he stayed out all last season, and sure there’s been more this season as his game wasn’t quite at its previous level and his shooting averages suffered.
But Rose dealt with the questions like he would a pesky defense, with grace and aplomb and relentless determination. He was back doing what he loved, and nothing could be better than that or wipe away the internal smile that brightened him. He appeared healthy and quick and, really, that was amazing and wonderful to see, his speed and athleticism there just as it always had been. You hoped and you wondered, and Rose left little doubt from those firsts—first practice, first exhibition, first regular season game—that he was back.
And he looked better than he had all season Friday in carrying the Bulls to a big early lead, 48-27. Rose was dominating reigning rookie of the year Damian Lillard with his defense, Lillard with six points and one of seven shooting in the first half while Rose had 17 points in leading the Bulls to a 59-44 halftime lead.
It was a marvelous start after the late game collapse in Denver Thursday.
The Bulls came out with a plan and a purpose and bolted ahead 22-10 before Portland could blaze any sort of trail. And against perhaps the hottest team in the league just coming off a sweep of a road trip.
Rose was making the arena look his like personal garden beating the Trail Blazers to the basket and shutting down high scoring Lillard who would end with 20 points. The Bulls generally do not double team, but first Noah was up, playing physically on LaMarcus Aldridge and then help was coming as Alridge tried to make a move, the Portland All-Star missing nine of his first 10 shots and finishing four of 20 for 12 points.
The Trail Blazers run their offense around Aldridge and Lillard, and the Bulls had them running in circles. Plus, the Bulls were on the boards again with Luol Deng scoring on four putbacks alone in the first quarter (Deng with 15 points and 14 rebounds overall) and a Bulls defense which was slow to react Thursday back in gear both getting out to shooters and closing down the lane.
“I thought Jo played excellent defense on Aldridge, battled and ran the floor great to get us easy scoring opportunities,” said Thibodeau.
The Bulls led 32-22 after one with Deng and Carlos Boozer with eight points each as Boozer finished with 16. The Bulls then continued to pour it on in the second quarter as the reserves entered and overall had a 26-8 edge over Portland. Two strong driving scores by Rose made it 48-21 as the Bulls continued to have multiple chances off the boards and were hustling. Kirk Hinrich came up with an amazing save flying into the stands that led to a Boozer fast break score and the 59-44 halftime lead. Hinrich ended with 13 points and seven rebounds and again zero turnovers.
“It was an opportunity to get another road win against a good team,” said Hinrich.
Rose was finally again getting to the free throw line with seven first half attempts, even as he was called for a technical foul for arguing when he didn’t get a call after challenging the citadel of the Trail Blazers defense. Rose did seem on the way to that breakout game he’d been talking about regularly, and a relief to the Bulls after their dispiriting loss in Denver Thursday to open the road trip.
But everything that could go wrong did in a disastrous third quarter.
Portland coach Terry Stotts made some nice adjustments to thwart the successful early Bulls strategy double teaming Aldridge inside and frustrating the Portland offense. First, the Trail Blazers went to Aldridge with a quick pass before the double team could come, and then Aldridge went out high where it was tougher to bring a double. Portland put Mike Dunleavy in more pick and rolls on defense with whomever Dunleavy was defending and Portland put taller Nicolas Batum on Rose defensively to slow Rose’s drives to the basket.
Portland exploited the doubles with more passing and Robin Lopez with 16 rebounds (the Bulls overall had a 52-39 edge) getting second chances as the Bulls got caught in rotations.
The changes helped stall the Bulls game as they went about six minutes in the third with one score and Portland went on a 16-2 run to pull into a 68-68 tie. That was just about when Rose was hurt and the Trail Blazers pulled ahead 78-71 at the end of three.
“Our third quarter allowed them to get back in game,” said Deng. “I thought we battled hard. The third quarter we gave them life. They outscored us and outplayed us. The first two quarters were great. We did not come out aggressive enough.”
The Bulls actually fought back to take an 88-85 lead midway through the fourth quarter as Thibodeau stayed with a mostly reserve group without Noah and Boozer.
Hinrich had nine points in the quarter and hit a three along with Mike Dunleavy, and it looked like the Bulls might help steal back the game after a Hinrich three gave the Bulls a 93-88 lead with 3:15 remaining.
Lillard answered with a three, pump faking Hinrich. Batum added a three as the Trail Blazers swung the ball against the attempts to still double Aldridge after Hinrich beat the Portland defense with a drive. That made it 95-94 Bulls with 2:16 left. But after a Deng miss, Wesley Matthews, who led Portland with 26 points, lost Mohammed in a pick and roll and made a 20 footer. The Bulls would not score again amidst misses by Gibson, Hinrich and Dunleavy and a shot clock violation. The 11-2 Trail Blazers won their ninth straight while the Bulls fell to 6-5 amidst more serious concerns.
“I haven’t really heard anything,” said Hinrich. “I don’t really want to speculate on it.”
No one does.