by Carlos Nazario
This past Saturday the Chicago Bulls took their first step in getting their 7th championship in franchise history by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 103-91 to take a 1-0 lead in the opening round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
That victory might have been the costliest one in their history and put a serious dent in their run. In the 4th quarter, with about 1:22 to go in the game, Derrick Rose jump stepped and went up for a shot. As he did, he heard a pop. He came down and immediately clutched his left knee. Even though the Bulls cruised to victory, the United Center and all of Chicago was holding their collective breaths waiting for word on Rose’s condition.
The news Bulls Nation feared was confirmed a few hours later through the team’s PR: “Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and he is out for the remainder of the season.”
Rose has had a slew of injuries this year that could have helped a hopeful doctor make it through medical school. He has had a toe, a foot, a back, a groin, and an ankle injury this season that cost him 27 games this season. In those games, the Bulls were still successful, winning 19 of them.
The news was not good. Turned out that pop Rose heard was his ACL and it was torn. Rose will be out the rest of the postseason and there will also be no Olympic gold medal for him either. The Bulls will now have to test that 27 game sample.
After the game, many sought to blame coach Tom Thibodeau for the mishap. When asked about it, Thibodeau was defiant. “I don’t work backwards like you guys do,” he said. “The score was going the other way.
“He’s got to play, and the thing is, we sat him ’till (the 7:52) mark of the fourth and he’s got to work on closing, he’s got to work on finishing. Our team, we didn’t handle that part great. That was what I was thinking.”
Bulls players and the organization as a whole backed Thibodeau for his decision. Luol Deng wondered why there was any question. “I don’t know why you would question it. It’s a playoff game. You’re trying to play. You’re trying to finish the game. Even though you’re up, you’re going to see them three more times. He’s playing well and we want him to get his rhythm. I don’t know why you’d question that.”
Rip Hamilton echoed those sentiments. “Philly was making a run, and in playoff basketball, you never want to give a team confidence. So if it’s having your starters in when you’ve got a team down, you’ve got to try to keep them down.”
Even opposing coach Doug Collins, who also had a stint coaching the Bulls, defended Thibodeau. “The one thing is, Tom Thibodeau is coach of the year,” he said. “And he was last year and he is this year. He knows what he’s doing coaching that team.
Thibodeau’s fear was proven to be valid when on Sunday the Los Angeles Clippers came back from a 24 point 4th quarter deficit to beat the Memphis Grizzlies. This is playoff basketball, and no coach wants that to happen.
The Bulls face an uphill battle to a championship, but it is a challenge they will take on fiercely. Thibodeau said “Derrick is not only a great player, he’s a great teammate, a great person. But it’s not a death sentence. It’s not a death sentence for him; it’s not a death sentence for our team.
Kyle Korver took to Facebook to make a classy, impassioned plea to fans. “Bulls fans. Now is not the time to ask why or to get bitter. Now is the time to refocus and ask ‘How are we going to win this Championship?’ We have the best Team in the league.”
Rose now faces reconstructive surgery and a 6-9 month recovery period. Those who have seen how hard he worked to become a superstar know he will work just as hard if not harder to get himself back on top. For now though, his job now is to be head cheerleader for the Bulls and inspire them on this championship run from the bench. In the meantime, the Bulls and their fans will use the refrain “Win it for DRose!”