Burden was too heavy on Rose
The burden was always too much on Derrick Rose, and it was his own team, his own bosses, his own town putting it on him. It’s not just about this season, but also about an entire generation for a franchise. It’s about replacing Michael Jordan in your own hometown.
It’s about not getting enough help. As great as Rose is, he’s not Michael Jordan, but instead a 6-foot-3 guard. And the Bulls’ experiment just blew up Saturday.
In Game 1 of the playoffs against Philadelphia, Rose jumped right and then landed, untouched, with the ball. His left knee buckled sideways to the right, a direction a knee is not supposed to bend. He tore the ACL, the main ligament in his left knee, and is out for the season.
With major reconstructive surgery, the defending NBA MVP also is out for the Olympics, and probably for most of next season, too.
In fact, it’s scary looking into his future. It would just be sad if injuries affected it, shortened it, ruined it. But he’s so aggressive, maybe even reckless at times, in throwing around his body and driving to the basket through much bigger, stronger players who are trained in throwing elbows.
The entire season went from one injury to another for Rose, from a bad toe to a bad back, a bad ankle to a sore groin. So many problems, it’s hard to remember the order. And now this.
He needs help. The Bulls need to give him some. And that’s the amazing thing, because the Bulls have been about teamwork and believing in a coach and building a franchise the right way.
It turns out, the whole thing was held together by one thread, by one ligament. Now that it snapped, the Bulls look like a house of cards.
The talk about the Bulls all year was about how great The Other Guys were, how cohesive the bench was while Rose recovered from injuries. But that was based entirely on the premise that Rose would be back to lead them.
The Bulls look like a mirage now. Coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t feel he could trust The Other Guys enough to close out a 12-point lead with 1:18 left. So he kept Rose, still hobbling part of the game from his groin injury, in the game. That’s when Rose got hurt.
What was Rose doing in the game at the time? Thibodeau answered defensively:
“I do not work backwards like you guys. The score was going the other way. He’s got to play. We sat him to about the seven-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
“Derrick has to work on finishing, on closing. Our team did not handle that part great. That’s what I was thinking.’’
It’s true that the Bulls had been up 20 with 4 1/2 minutes left, so the lead was falling. But Rose’s body had been breaking down all year. And Philadelphia wasn’t even fouling to stop the clock. Thibodeau should have had Rose on the bench.
Thibodeau has not been questioned on anything in two years. It’s time.
He was wrong. The Other Guys would have closed off the game; in fact, they did, winning 103-91, not dropping a point from the lead after Rose left. This wasn’t the time for Rose to work on closing off games.
Thibodeau has been cherished for the work ethic and hustle he has instilled. But at some point — like when you need to win 16 playoff games for a championship — you baby along your injured superstar.
“I don’t know why you would question that,’’ Bulls forward Luol Deng said. “It’s a playoff game. You’re trying to play. You’re trying to finish the game. He’s playing well and he’s trying to get his rhythm.’’
Not anymore, he isn’t.
So now, the story goes back to Rose’s supporting cast. It beat the Miami Heat during the regular season, so why not now? Did you see the way the Heat destroyed the New York Knicks on Saturday?
No. The whole playoff picture has changed. The Bulls, the No. 1 seed in the East, probably will still eliminate Philadelphia, assuming the Other Guys don’t simply check out now. But then Boston in the second round? Not likely. And even if the little engine manages to get that far, it then gets Miami.
This will be portrayed as bad luck for Rose and for the Bulls. I’m not a huge believer in luck. The Bulls put too much on him.
He needed help with another scorer, and the Bulls gave him Rip Hamilton, who is getting old and has been hurt all year long. He actually is coming around now, doing what the Bulls needed. But he can’t be counted on next year.
Carlos Boozer is the power forward the Bulls brought in for Rose, and while he can build up pretty stats, he won’t get ugly and tough under the basket. Deng has become a star, but not a superstar. And he has put off wrist surgery to help get a championship and to play in the Olympics.
After last season’s playoffs, Rose blamed himself for his inability to fight through Miami’s traps, and LeBron James’ coverage. So he spent the entire offseason trying to toughen up. In one drill, he would drive the lane while his workout partners would push him around with big pads.
Whatever you think of James, he never gets hurt. He is stronger than Rose, and has Wade. Rose needs help.
It has taken the Bulls forever to rebuild since Jordan left. The organization made one mistake after another, and finally lucked out by winning the draft lottery. That’s how they got Rose.
This season, so promising just 24 hours ago, just became impossible.
Boozer called Saturday’s game maybe the saddest win ever. But the future is in question, too, for the Bulls with Rose.
If this is his burden, how long can he last?