Midway through the third quarter of his first (exhibition, but still …) game in 525 days on Saturday night, Derrick Rose was lifted from the Chicago Bulls lineup. The team was down at the time to the Indiana Pacers, but managed to eke its way to a comeback win with Rose on the bench by emphasizing defense and putting the screws on a Pacer team that had no answers offensively. Though Rose was short on a few free throw attempts, he did not look noticeably winded during his time on the court.
As Rose readies for the second exhibition game of his comeback season, he let slip that he had a bit of a problem with sitting out what technically were crucial minutes in a game that didn’t count. The Bulls play on Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies in St. Louis, and Rose reflected on his sit out in a Sunday discussion with Comcast’s Aggrey Sam:
“I’m feeling good. Thibs has been asking me the same thing. I’m feeling all right, though. After the game, I could have played some more, but they took me out, so if anything, just watching me and making sure that I’m all right,” he said. “I think conditioning and rehab and training definitely put me in the spot that I’m in right now, where I’m recovering real quick, I’m eating right. My diet changed, and it’s actually preventing a lot of injuries, knick-knack injuries. In the future, just preparing myself the right way and staying healthy, that’s the key.”
“It’s tough, especially for it to be a close game like it was and to be sitting out,” explained the former league MVP, who scored 13 points. “Just wanted to test myself a little bit more, but I wasn’t able to.”
Rose ended up playing 20 minutes in the win, and he did show flashes, but it did have to be reserve point guard (and last year’s starting point man Kirk Hinrich) that led the team to that exhibition win. In following up on Derrick’s (slight) frustrations, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau mentioned reps for that bench as one of the reasons why starters sit heavy minutes even in close games. It’s not just that he’s watching Rose’s surgically repaired knee, as should be the case. He’s got a whole team and potential 100-game regular and postseason to prepare for.
It’s true that Rose should be worked back in slowly in his first NBA action in over 17 months, the man just can’t be in game shape no matter his diligence, but an ACL tear isn’t a fatigue-related injury that Rose needs to mind. Unlike chronic knee pain or plantar fasciitis, the minutes allotment won’t really change much for Derrick and his team. Especially with Joakim Noah already sitting. Thibodeau is treating this as a typical preseason, as he should.
For those worried about Rose’s reps with his starting teammates? That’s a concern. He hasn’t played with Hinrich since the early spring of 2010, he barely played with Jimmy Butler as a rookie, while Noah and forwards Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng have spent quite a bit of time on the shelf since teaming up with Rose in 2010 and 2008 respectively. Healthy, full-cylinder chemistry isn’t going to be forged in the exhibition season, though. The Bulls need it in place by spring, while being mindful of the at-times ridiculous injury issues that have befallen the Bulls in Rose’s time with the team.
There’s no controversy, here, and certainly no side that is doing anything wrong. It’s the typical preseason frustration from a player champing at the bit, with competitiveness mixing in with the desire to do things right. Chicago Bulls fans shouldn’t want it any other way.