Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose appeared to move around well when he worked out under the guidance of the team’s training staff before Tuesday night’s 98-86 win over the New York Knicks but missed the game because of a sprained right ankle.
He returned from a 12-game absence with a groin injury Sunday afternoon against the Knicks, but he rolled his right ankle during the second quarter as he went on to drop 29 points on four three-pointers in almost 39 minutes of action. As a precautionary measure, Rose wore a walking boot Monday and had one on when he entered the United Center Tuesday.
While Rose, who has missed 23 games overall due to a turf toe, lower back spasms, a groin pull and now the ankle injury, has repeatedly said this season that it is his decision whether he will play hurt, the Bulls clearly had an input Tuesday, when both vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman watched Rose shoot and run before the contest.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau believes Rose is feeling much better, although the point guard badly wanted to play Tuesday two days after he committed eight turnovers and missed two critical free throws in the first game of the home-and-home series.
“He’s feeling pretty good,” Thibodeau told reporters after Tuesday’s victory when asked about Rose’s status. “I just think it was the smart thing to do in the situation. If we’re going to err, we’re going to err on the side of caution. He wanted to play and we felt it was best that he didn’t.”
For his part, Rose is confident he is over all the other injuries that have bothered him over the course of this season. Fortunately for him and the Bulls, the latest ailment does not seem as serious as fans may have feared.
By all accounts, Rose has responded well to treatment. While he didn’t appear to be affected by the injury on Sunday, Rose admitted he had to adjust his style of play as the game wore on.
“That’s why I was walking the ball up the majority of the time [in the fourth quarter],” Rose said earlier Tuesday. “I wasn’t running because I was throbbing, but I was just trying to win the game. It definitely hurts losing the game and definitely [hurt] having to sit out this game.
“The only thing I can do is try to stay positive, man. God does everything for a reason. I don’t know the reason right now, just trying to fight through it and cheer on my teammates.”
Those teammates stepped up in a big way Tuesday evening when point guards C.J. Watson and John Lucas III combined for 16 points, 10 assists and just three turnovers, while Mike James played only six seconds but had a steal.
The Bulls moved to 16-7 without Rose, who is averaging 23 points and a career-high 7.9 assists.
Still, the Bulls know that their championship aspirations depend on Rose’s health, which was challenged but not overcome by the latest injury.
Bulls’ two-guards shine off bench: Kyle Korver had arguably his best all-around game of the season Tuesday when he posted 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three blocks – as well as a memorable fourth-quarter play in which he dived to the floor to corral a loose ball and dished it to Taj Gibson for a two-handed dunk – while shooting 3-for-5 from three-point range in 23 minutes.
The veteran sharpshooter made it a point to work hard over the summer and during the lockout, and it has paid off this season. It also doesn’t hurt that Korver has Thibodeau in his ears.
“You can’t play for Thibs if you don’t do something else besides just shoot the basketball, and I learned that day one,” Korver told the assembled media. “I’ve always tried to do more than that, but he’s demanded that I grow as a player and I’ve tried to do that.”
While Korver had 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, Ronnie Brewer scored all of his six in the second. On the stat sheet, he had three rebounds, one steal and one block, too, but it seemed as if he was everywhere on both ends of the court, changing the complexion of the game.