The Chicago Bulls got a game one victory over the Philadelphia 76ers and everything looked like it was going according to plan. But with just over a minute left in the game and Chicago up by 12, Derrick Rose landed awkwardly on his left leg and went down immediately. It’s safe to say astronauts in outer space could hear the collective gasp from the city of Chicago as the Bulls playoff hopes may have just gone out the window.
While the extent of D-Rose’s knee injury is still unknown, the fact that he went down without any contact from a defender means it’s probably serious. Now up until this point, Tom Thibodeau has been a top candidate for the NBA Coach of the Year Award, but leaving your superstar, who has a history of injuries this season, in a game that was all but over has got to be the biggest bonehead move of his coaching career. I don’t question putting Rose back in the game with just under eight minutes to play; the Sixers had cut the lead to 15 and Chicago needed to squash any comeback hopes right away. In a seven game series, it’s critical to stomp on another team’s hopes whenever you get the chance. But leaving him in that long? The Bulls extended their lead once Rose came back in and it would have been perfectly acceptable to sub him out with four or five minutes left. This poor coaching decision might haunt the Chicago Bulls for the rest of the year.
Because now Chicago is looking at possibly playing the rest of the series, and maybe even the entire playoffs, without their star point guard. The reigning MVP is the only one capable of leading this Bulls team to the promised land. He had 23 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists before going down with the injury, which is particularly impressive considering how little time he’s had to get back into full swing. The Bulls had a great team chemistry going: Rose was leading like they need him to, Richard Hamilton was scoring like they’ve wanted him to all season, Luol Deng and Kyle Korver were hitting shots and Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer were grabbing rebounds and displaying great interior passing. All of this makes Rose’s injury an even bigger disappointment: he went from almost dropping a triple double in an easy playoff win to potentially missing the rest of the year.
I’m not too concerned about Chicago winning the series. Philadelphia can’t score and C.J. Watson has proven himself as a capable backup point guard. But the Sixers smell blood and their odds of winning a few games just went up. But more importantly, this injury isn’t just about this series. Chicago has a real shot at winning a title with everyone healthy. Now they’re going to have to fight to get to the second round.
Chicago cannot win a championship without Derrick Rose. That’s just a fact. While they’ve proven that they can win without him, they cannot win the NBA Finals without D-Rose. Hopefully he’ll be able to return at some point this postseason, but a non-contact injury is never good and given his durability so far this season, I’m forced to make the unfortunate prediction that Derrick Rose won’t be back anytime soon. And Thibs and the Bulls will regret it for a long time.
UPDATE 4/28/12 AT 2:13 P.M.: Derrick Rose tore his ACL and MCL and will miss the remainder of the playoffs. Looks like Chicago’s title hopes will have to wait until next year. While Thibodeau made the right move putting him back in with 8 minutes to go, he singlehandedly destroyed his team’s chances of winning an NBA title by not taking him out.
UPDATE 4/28/12 AT 2:35 P.M.: NBC Miami prematurely reported that Derrick Rose had torn his ACL and MCL. The results of the MRI are still pending.
UPDATE 4/28/12 AT 3:29 P.M.: It has been confirmed that Derrick Rose has torn his ACL and is done for the rest of the season.