Nursing lower back spasms, Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose was a late scratch before his team’s 95-64 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night. The 6-foot-3 point guard sat out as a precautionary measure, though, according to Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
“He’s still the same, day-to-day,” Thibodeau told reporters after the game when asked about Rose’s status. “[He sat] more precautionary, just wanted to give him another day of rest, and we’ll see where he is tomorrow.”
After missing the entire second half of Monday night’s 108-87 victory over the New Jersey Nets, Rose scored just six points in 22 minutes of action — a season-low in a game that he didn’t leave due to injury — in the Bulls’ 90-67 rout of the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night. However, the 23-year-old told reporters earlier Friday that his back issue hadn’t changed much, it remained tight, but he believed he would face the Bobcats.
Still, Rose’s injury is not considered serious and the fourth-year NBA veteran is expected to play in Sunday afternoon’s nationally televised game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Obviously, the Bulls didn’t need Rose in order to roll past the lifeless Bobcats. And although the All-Star has repeatedly said he wants to play night in and night out, he’s smart and knows how important it is to stay healthy, and not rush back, during the compressed, 66-game season, which has proven to be an injury-plagued one for teams around the league.
In place of Rose on Friday, C.J. Watson made his fourth start of the season and stuffed the stat sheet, with seven points, five assists, four steals and three rebounds in 25 minutes. He has continually shown this season that he can step up whenever the Bulls are minus Rose, and he’s averaging almost 10 points and four assists for the campaign.
Over the past few weeks, Thibodeau has repeatedly raved about his backup point guard. In fact, the reigning Coach of the Year even admitted Watson deserved more playing time a season ago.
“I thought C.J. did a great job of running the team, making us play with pace,” Thibodeau said. “I thought last year he had a really good year. And studying the games from last year, every time we played him extended minutes he played extremely well. Then I thought he was terrific in the playoffs.
“He had a very difficult job last year. He was deserving of more minutes than he got. But he handled short minutes great. And he’s got great character and he’s a terrific leader.”
With Rose sidelined, John Lucas III received extended minutes for the first time in nearly one month. He poured in 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting in almost 23 minutes. He scored eight in the second quarter when he carved up the Bobcats’ defense for a pair of acrobatic layups.
Bulls respect Celtics: The Bulls defeated the Celtics 88-79 on Jan. 13, but they know Boston has won nine of its last 12 games, despite losing its last two. The game promises to have several marquee matchups, featuring Rose-Rajon Rondo, Luol Deng–Paul Pierce, Carlos Boozer–Kevin Garnett and the Bulls’ bench versus the Celtics’.
“[The Celtics are] playing tough,” Thibodeau told the assembled media. “They’re clicking on all cylinders. Pierce is healthy, Rondo’s back, Garnett’s looking real good, Ray Allen is having a fantastic year and their bench, I think, is getting acclimated. They’re playing extremely well right now, so we have to be ready when we get up there.”
The Bulls have won five games in a row, although they have faced all sub-.500 teams during that stretch. The Celtics have improved as the season has wore on and figure to give the Bulls a much stiffer challenge than they did last month. The Bulls will also wrap up their season-long, nine-game road trip Sunday.
Thibs’ magic number: Thibodeau would clinch the right to coach the Eastern Conference All-Star team, which includes both Rose and Deng, on Sunday with either a Bulls’ win over the Celtics or a Miami Heat loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Late Friday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Scott Brooks earned the honor to coach the Western Conference All-Stars. The Bulls are 23-6 this season, while the Thunder are 21-6.