After dropping 18 points and 11 assists Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors, Rose put his sprained left big toe, which he suffered in Tuesday's contest versus the Minnesota Timberwolves, in the past. But the 6-foot-3 star aggravated his toe and was scratched by coach Tom Thibodeau before Monday's game. In his absence, the Bulls committed 19 turnovers, which the Grizzlies scored 26 points off of.
"Went out there to shoot, [was] a little sore -- sorer than usual. I decided to sit out," Rose told reporters after the game. "But I was mad, mad the whole time. Hopefully in the future it'll get better."
As usual, Rose made no secret about the fact that he certainly wants to play in the Bulls' next game, Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns, the second night of a back-to-back.
"I was definitely mad tonight that I didn't get the chance to go out there and play," said Rose, who played collegiality in Memphis for one season. "Just to play for the fans, my fans back here, I was kind of upset about it. But hopefully I'll try to get out there and play [Tuesday]."
According the Rose, the decision regarding whether or not he will play against the Suns is up to him. He will most likely be listed as a game-time decision and go through the same process as he did Monday -- warm up before the game in an effort to test his bum toe. He dressed against the Grizzlies and should do the same on Tuesday.
"I want to play [Tuesday], try my hardest, but if not, I'll have to sit out again," he said. "It's up to me if I want to go out there and play. So it's my decision. They left it up to me."
While there's no question that the United Center crowd will want to watch Rose face off against former NBA MVP Steve Nash, the Bulls have plenty of reasons to hold him out Tuesday -- and possibly beyond.
First of all, the Bulls, who have the Eastern Conference's best record at 12-3, could give Rose five days off between games by keeping him on the bench against the Suns. Given the compressed 66-game regular season, that type of rest can go a long way, especially for an injured player. Secondly, although Rose did not appear hampered by his toe when he played back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, he has been in a walking boot off the court and, by all accounts, has had a noticeable limp in the locker room.
In many ways, it's a no-brainer for the Bulls to have Rose sidelined until he's 100 percent healthy. This week, they face mediocre competition that shouldn't give them much trouble, even minus Rose. After the aforementioned Suns, the Bulls get two days off before playing yet another back-to-back set Friday and Saturday against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Bobcats, respectively. The Suns, Cavs and Bobcats have a combined record of 13-25. The Bulls should be more than capable of holding the fort down until Rose is ready to go, with C.J. Watson and John Lucas III able to fill the void at point guard.
Lucas made his second start of the campaign in Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee, while Watson returned to the lineup after missing nine games in a row. The Bulls have shown complete confidence in Lucas, who on Wednesday dropped 25 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in place of Rose and had eight points against the Grizzlies.
Watson, sporting a black, heavily padded sleeve on his left arm, scored 17 points while shooting 5-for-10 from the field and 7-for-9 from the free throw line in 28 minutes of action against Memphis. He received more minutes than Lucas and figures to start Tuesday if Rose is out.
Although Watson had four turnovers, Thibodeau was ecstatic with the 6-foot-2 reserve's performance and understood the hard work it took for him to return earlier than expected.
"Big positive, big positive," he told the assembled media of Watson. "He's been working extremely hard to come back and you can't say enough about what he's done to get back this quickly. That was a positive sign for us."
Rose admitted afterwards that the Bulls "probably" would like him to miss Tuesday night's game, but he insisted he will do anything in his power to be on the court with his teammates as they look to start a new winning streak.
Although Rose will surely push the training and coaching staff, the guess here is that Rose will not go against the Suns. It's hard to imagine, though, that the fourth-year guard, who has missed only 18 games in his career, is out on Friday and/or Saturday.
Still, Bulls followers know the team will need Rose completely functional when it matters most -- in the postseason. Obviously, Rose is the Bulls' heart and sole. He seemed willing to sit one or two more games if it means fully healing his toe. In the big picture, this week's slate of games are essentially meaningless for Chicago.
Rose's toe is ailing, but make no mistake: His confidence is not.
Jokingly asked by a reporter if he was scared to be matched up against Mike Conley -- who missed both teams' New Year's Day game -- on Monday, Rose said: "Not to say anything bad about him, but I'm not scared of no point guard in the league or any player."
Colangelo, Krzyzewski rave about Rose: To no one's surprise, Rose was among the 20 finalists that USA Basketball named Monday for the 2012 London Olympic team. Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge are the only newcomers to the squad, which will be trimmed to 12 in June.
Returning from the team that won gold in Beijing in 2008 are Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Back from the reigning world champions are Rose, Kevin Durant, Tyson Chandler, Eric Gordon, Rudy Gay, Kevin Love, Lamar Odom, Chauncey Billups, Russell Westbrook and Andre Iguodala.
It's a safe bet that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Rose -- who started at point guard for Team USA during the 2010 World Championships in Turkey -- will represent his country next summer.
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski had nothing but praise for Rose, the youngest MVP in NBA history.
"I’m not sure anyone has come as far and as fast as Derrick Rose," Colangelo said in a conference call. "He literally dominates games. As I watch him play, he seems to be able get to any point on the floor at any time he wishes. Our practices are going to be pretty interesting in terms of competition."
Added Krzyzewski: "He’s just a marvelous player to coach because he's a sponge and such a team player. That whole summer (2010), he wanted to learn and he did a great job for us. I think it helped him going into the next year. But he helped himself by making that commitment.
"Remember, he also was part of our select teams like [Kevin] Durant and guys that will be on our select team this year who will be part of the team that goes forward Derrick pays his dues. He's an incredible athlete, but an incredible guy. What a team player and pleasure to coach."
Rose took the announcement in stride, though, and knows that he will have to earn his way on the star-studded team. Of course, he's done that in the past, reaching the All-Star team in 2009-10, just his second season in the league.
"It's an honor to be on that list," Rose told reporters Monday. "If it was up to me, I'll definitely play in it. But Coach K and all the coaching staff has to pick the players. Hopefully you'll see me playing with that team, but if not I'll definitely be training hard in the offseason."