The Chicago Bulls have already seen Rip Hamilton battle lingering groin issues and miss extended stretches of this season due to the injury. Obviously, they are not about to let that happen to their reigning NBA MVP, Derrick Rose.
Rose will most likely not play this weekend when the Bulls close out a six-game homestand against the reeling Portland Trail Blazers (20-23) Friday and resurgent Philadelphia 76ers (25-18) Saturday.
Coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after Friday morning’s shootaround that Rose is a game-time decision for that night’s game against a Blazers team that traded key starting veterans Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby and fired coach Nate McMillan on Thursday. However, all signs point to Rose being sidelined.
After pulling his groin during Monday’s game against the New York Knicks, Rose sat out Wednesday’s impressive 106-102 win over the Miami Heat. He has missed 11 of the team’s 45 games this season because of a turf toe, lower back spasms and now the groin injury.
In terms of health, it has been an uncharacteristic campaign for Rose, who had missed just five games in the first three seasons of his career. Obviously, the Bulls’ championship aspirations are reliant on the 23-year-old’s ability to stay on the court and the team is wisely erring on the side of caution with their franchise cornerstone.
With or without Rose, the Bulls are confident that they can beat any team in the league on any given night – a mantra Thibodeau has repeatedly preached over the course of the season. On Wednesday, John Lucas III was the latest example of a player who has stepped up when a starter was out. The seldom-used point guard dropped 24 points on 9-for-12 shooting against the Heat in arguably the Bulls’ best victory of the season.
Chicago is 8-3 without Rose this season. His backup, C.J. Watson, is a game-time call against the Blazers as well. If both Rose and Watson are out, Lucas will most likely start, with Mike James – who signed with the Bulls on Tuesday – serving as the backup.
Still, they were rumored to be interested in a handful of players, including the Utah Jazz’s Raja Bell.
Contrary to reports, though, the Bulls didn’t inquire about Bell, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard who has earned a reputation as a defensive stopper and a knock-down three-point shooter.
“I never heard from the Bulls,” Bell’s Chicago-based agent, Herb Rudoy, wrote in an email exchange Friday morning when asked about whether Chicago expressed interest in his 35-year-old client.
LeBron stopped: Lost in Lucas’ inspiring performance and Dwyane Wade’s 19-point fourth quarter Wednesday night was the fact that the Bulls held Heat star LeBron James to just two points in the final 12 minutes of the contest.
James had scored 33 points in the first three quarters but missed 2-of-3 shots in the final frame. Although Luol Deng went just 4-for-13 from the field, the Bulls’ small forward defended James well in the fourth.
So, did the Bulls alter their defensive game plan as the night wore on to better contain James?
“Not really,” Thibodeau told the assembled media after the game. “We tried to make him play in a crowd. A couple of times we went after him to get the ball out of his hands. But they were small; they had us spread out pretty good. The thing about LeBron – and he doesn’t get enough credit for it – is, he can beat you with the shot, he can beat you with the pass. He keeps a lot of pressure on you.”