Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, who bruised his left elbow late in Wednesday night's 99-83 road victory over the Detroit Pistons, will play Friday against the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena at 7 p.m. Chicago time on WCIU (local).
"He’s good. He’s good," coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after Friday's morning shootaround.
The 6-foot-3 Rose hit the floor hard late in the fourth quarter after driving to his left and being clipped midflight by Pistons guard Damien Wilkins. He reportedly struggled to lift his arm above his head in the post-game locker room.
"I’m good," Rose told the assembled media after the game. "Just like any other time when you fall, you’re definitely going to be sore, but thank God we don’t play [Thursday] and I can rest."
Although Rose had added it's "way too early" to know if he would be on the court Friday, he was obviously looking forward to facing one of the Bulls' Eastern Conference rivals.
"I want to play," Rose said.
When asked about whether the Pistons played overly physical late in the game, Rose said: "Nah, it wasn't that. They were just making a run. Their guys were playing hard. That's just how it is sometimes at the end of the games."
Howard, the NBA's best center, delivered a pair of hard fouls on Rose during the 2009-10 season. But that clearly didn't affect Rose in three contests against Howard and the Magic last season when he averaged 25 points and 6.3 assists while shooting 46.5 percent from the field in almost 36 minutes per game.
It should come as no surprise to Bulls fans that Rose is healthy enough to play in Friday night's nationally televised game (ESPN), given the fact that he has been durable over the past three seasons, missing only six games, and also wants to compete with his teammates -- especially since C.J. Watson is out due to a dislocated left elbow.
Meanwhile, Rip Hamilton will be a game-time decision after tweaking his strained left groin on Wednesday. The veteran shooting guard suffered the injury last Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Lucas filling the void: Replacing the injured Watson on the Bulls' depth chart, point guard John Lucas III has played well in extended minutes for Thibodeau.
Lucas' second consecutive game serving as Rose's full-time backup didn't get off to the start he had hoped for. Lucas gave up a layup to his defensive assignment, the Pistons' Brandon Knight, turned the ball over on an errant pass and committed a foul. Still, Thibodeau stuck with Lucas -- whom the reigning Coach of the Year spent time with for two seasons in Houston -- and the 29-year-old rewarded him in the second quarter, scoring six points on two-three pointers and dishing to Taj Gibson for a two-handed dunk in just over seven minutes, which, of course, allowed Rose to rest on the bench.
In 22 minutes this season, Lucas has scored 14 points, knocked down 4-of-7 shots from beyond the arc and handed out four assists. While Lucas' play has certainly surprised a portion of the fanbase, Bulls players and coaches have expressed complete confidence in the fourth-year guard ever since Watson went down during the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
With Watson, whose arm is in a sling, sidelined for at least the next week, the Bulls are hoping Lucas continues to play solid basketball.
"I thought John was terrific, but I've told you guys this all along," Thibodeau said Wednesday. "[His performance] doesn't surprise me."
Reserve big men remain active: Thibodeau leaned on Taj Gibson and Omer Asik in Tuesday's come-from-behind 76-74 win over the Atlanta Hawks, but as Carlos Boozer (19 points and seven rebounds) and Joakim Noah (13 points, 11 rebounds and four assists) had their best game together this season on Wednesday, both defensive-minded reserve big men did not get prolonged minutes in the fourth quarter.
Still, Gibson was one of five Bulls in double figures, posting 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 20 minutes. He scored 10 points in the first half as the Bulls built a 16-point lead through two quarters of play.
"His rebounding [was] excellent. Defense, excellent. Real active," Thibodeau said of Gibson.
Following a nine-rebound, three-block, 28-minute outing against the Hawks, Asik had only two points and one rebound in 11 minutes versus the Pistons on the second night of a back-to-back. The Turkish center's lowered playing time was due to the fact that he was a bit exhausted, according to Thibodeau.
"Omer was a little winded, so he didn't play his normal minutes," he said. "But still, when he was in there I thought he did a very good job protecting the rim."
He will need to do more of that Friday. The Bulls will have all hands on deck to guard Howard, who opens up plenty of looks for shooters such as Jason Richardson -- whom the Bulls targeted during the compressed free-agency period -- J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson and Hedo Turkoglu, among others.
"We've got to be ready," Thibodeau said Wednesday. "They're really good. They put a lot of pressure, they've got a dominant inside force and they got great shooting."
The 6-foot-11 Asik had success on both ends of the court against Howard a season ago, dropping five points, 13 rebounds and two blocks in an 89-81 Bulls road win on Feb. 3, a night when Noah scored just two points and played 17 minutes while battling foul trouble.