As expected, Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose (toe) and forward Taj Gibson (ankle) missed Saturday night's game against the Charlotte Bobcats at the United Center. Backup point guard John Lucas III (groin) and starting center Joakim Noah (ankle) had believed they would play but sat out as well.
Although Rose dressed for the team's afternoon shootaround, it was the fourth contest in a row he has missed because of a sore left big toe.
"Of course, we're disappointed for Derrick," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters before the game. "He's put a lot of work in, so injuries are a tough part of it. He's doing great with his rehab. But the next guy has to step up."
C.J. Watson started again on Saturday and has averaged 18.3 points and five assists in three outings since returning from a nine-game absence, while Omer Asik made the first start of his NBA career. Mike James, whom the Bulls signed last week, backed up Watson. Both Luol Deng and Brian Scalabrine figure to see minutes at the backup power forward spot in place of Gibson. Although, Carlos Boozer should rack up plenty of minutes against the Bobcats unless the Bulls pull away, given the fact that the 6-foot-9 forward is in the midst of his best stretch of the season.
"It's real sore, real painful," Gibson told the assembled media on Saturday. "But [I] just have to take it slow. [I'm] lucky nothing was broken, nothing torn, so that's the bright side.
"We can't even put a timeline on it. Hopefully, this [the injury] goes away in the next couple days or I can get some feeling back so I can play. But right now it's all about just icing, that's the best thing we're going to hope for right now."
Gibson suffered a high left ankle sprain in the second quarter of Friday night's 114-75 road victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. He rolled his ankle on Antawn Jamison's foot, hobbled off the court and did not return to the game. Noah also suffered a sprained left ankle injury in the second quarter, but remained in the game. Noah was listed in Saturday's starting lineup, and was introduced by public address announcer Tommy Edwards during starting lineups, but Asik walked out for him.
Lucas scored nine points in a key second-quarter stretch against the Cavs, but strained his left groin -- the same injury that caused Rip Hamilton to miss 10 games -- in the first half. He returned in the fourth quarter, but quickly came out and grimaced on the bench.
Lucas expects to play in Monday night's home game against the New Jersey Nets.
"Our bench was terrific," Thibodeau said after Friday night's game. "I thought John played extremely well. I thought Taj had good energy going to start."
After Rose aggravated his turf toe in last Tuesday's contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves, he missed a Jan. 11 78-64 home win over the Washington Wizards. He returned two days later for last week's back-to-back set on Friday and Saturday against the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors, respectively. Rose posted 18 points and 11 assists versus the Raptors and declared that his injury is in the past. But he tweaked his toe and missed the Bulls' back-to-back set Monday and Tuesday against the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns, respectively.
The Bulls are 3-1 this season without the reigning NBA MVP and should be able to get past the Bobcats (3-12) at home, where they are 6-0. Thibodeau's bunch has played like a well-oiled machine, receiving strong efforts from multiple players, and won by 20 or more points for the second consecutive contest on Friday night.
So will Thibodeau take his team's recent play and upcoming schedule into account when it comes to keeping Rose sidelined?
"No, that's not the way I think," he told the assembled media Friday. "The way I think is this: Only Derrick knows how he feels. When Derrick feels like he can play, he'll play. If he feels like he can't, he won't. We're very confident that we have more than enough to win with. And somehow there's this notion out there that this team you should beat, or that [team]. It doesn't work like that in the NBA. [In] the NBA, every team is capable of beating you. So you've got to be ready every night and whoever is ready to go, that's who you go with. And that's what we're going to continue to do."