In typical, gritty fashion, Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose brushed aside a back injury that forced him to miss the entire second half of his team's 108-87 drubbing of the New Jersey Nets on Monday night at Prudential Center.
Rose scored four points and failed to record an assist in 10 minutes, 40 seconds of action.
From the outset, the 6-foot-3 point guard appeared to be hobbled up and grabbed his back at certain points. Following a two-handed dunk 45 seconds into the game, Rose moved around gingerly and it was clear that his back was still an issue. Less than two minutes later, Rose picked up his second foul and was replaced by C.J. Watson, who posted 14 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in a team-high 39 minutes.
Rose checked back in at the 10 minute, 37 second mark of the second quarter, however, his court time was short-lived. With five minutes, 47 seconds left in the first half, Bulls forward Carlos Boozer fed Rose for an acrobatic layup, but Rose ran back to the other end of the court as gingerly as he has over the past couple games. The reigning NBA MVP left the game for good about three minutes later, exiting to the locker room -- with a noticeable limp -- along with members of the team's training staff.
The Bulls ruled Rose out, and the fourth-year veteran confirmed after the game that he's dealing with lower back spasms. He didn't remember when he suffered his back injury, but admitted it has bothered him before last Monday's (Jan. 30) contest against the Washington Wizards. During the first half of Saturday night's 113-90 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, Rose stretched on the bench and used some game stoppages to squat. He also received treatment during Sunday's day off.
For Rose, the plan will be the same ahead of Wednesday night's tilt against the New Orleans Hornets.
"Right now, I feel all right," he told reporters after Monday's win over the Nets. "Just back spasms; ain't nothing to worry about. [Tuesday] we have a day off, [I'll] get treatment, get a massage. And hopefully I'll be playing next game.
"I can't remember when it happened. I was tight a couple of games ago. But tonight was pretty, pretty tough."
Rose, who has missed five games overall this season because of a turf toe on his left big toe, will be re-evaluated on Tuesday, according to Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. The reigning Coach of the Year certainly knows about the value of his franchise star, but, like Rose, he is hoping the 23-year-old's tweak is a short-term issue.
"You're always concerned. And certainly with him, but no more so than every other player too," Thibodeau said. "Health is a big concern. We're hopeful. He's done a great job of taking care of himself -- doing a lot of extra conditioning, lifting, rehab, massage, rest. So we're hopeful that this is a very short-term thing."
Rose's teammates, for their part, didn't send out any posts on Twitter regarding the All-Star's health. It remains to be seen whether or not that means Rose's injury isn't quite as serious as it may have appeared.
In Rose's mind, his back issue could very well stem from his knee tendinitis, which dates back to his lone college season at Memphis.
"It's just pretty tight," he told the assembled media when asked about his back. "I'm a guy that's not flexible, so if one thing fails on me -- it has something to do with my legs, tendinitis or whatever -- it tends to use your other parts of your body a little bit more. And these last couple of days, it's been my back.
"It was tight the whole game. It's just something where, I've got to get a massage and stretch the right way and hopefully it'll be gone."
The Bulls are 4-1 without Rose this season, but they would obviously much rather play with him in the lineup. He's averaging 22.7 points and 7.9 assists in 22 games. The Bulls' lighter schedule, including their next two games against sub-.500 squads, could give the team a good reason to rest Rose moving forward, but make no mistake: Rose has no plans, as of now, to miss any time.
"Right now, I'll be playing next game," Rose declared. "It's nothing like I'm going to be sitting out. I always want to think positive and just try to keep things up."