After Derrick Rose sat out for the 14th time in 17 games, Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau admitted concern about his oft-injured star and the lack of time the starting unit has been together.
The Bulls will have to weigh those factors Wednesday night when they visit the Charlotte Bobcats, who have dropped 17 in a row and need one more win to avoid the worst record in NBA history.
Chicago (46-15) was without Rose and Luol Deng on Monday night, when they fell 87-84 at home to a Washington team which has the league's second-worst record. Deng sat out with a rib injury suffered Sunday while Rose was bothered by swelling in his foot.
The Bulls' lead over Miami for the Eastern Conference's top seed dropped to 2 1/2 games. Chicago visits the Heat on Thursday.
With a big matchup looming, the Bulls may opt to sit Rose for the 25th time this season against the lowly Bobcats. However, Thibodeau has talked about wanting Rose to work off any rust, and for his starting five to get some much-needed time together on the court.
Chicago has played just 13 games with its projected starting lineup, which also includes Richard Hamilton, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. The Bulls have five games remaining.
The status of both Rose and Deng for Wednesday is uncertain. Rose's latest injury comes after he returned to the lineup April 8 at New York following a 12-game absence for a strained right groin. He sprained his right ankle in that overtime loss and missed a home win over the Knicks two days later.
"Yeah, I'm always concerned. He's missed a lot of games," Thibodeau said. "I'm concerned about that, but (also) disappointed, we have to play a lot better."
Chicago had 17 turnovers Monday after recording 21 in an ugly overtime win at Detroit on Sunday. The Bulls shot 38.1 percent against the Wizards and were outscored 20-2 on the fast break as they had a three-game winning streak snapped.
They're hitting a league-worst 41.1 percent from the field in April, going 4-4.
"The thing is, you can say that, OK maybe one game, but these guys have been around all year," Thibodeau said. "The season is coming to an end very quickly then you have to be ready, you keep on putting things off, it's not good."
Chicago has won four in a row over the Bobcats (7-53) and both victories this season were without Rose, including a 95-64 win at Charlotte on Feb. 10.
That point total was a season low for the Bobcats and the next-lowest came in their latest game, a 75-67 loss to New Orleans on Monday. Charlotte shot a season-worst 30.3 percent en route to its 17th straight defeat, matching the franchise record set earlier this season.
Already assured of finishing with the league's worst record, the Bobcats will end up with a .106 winning percentage if it fails to win any of its remaining six games. That would surpass the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, who finished 9-73 for a .110 winning percentage, as the worst record in league history.
"We are desperate to get a win," guard Matt Carroll said. "No one wants to be known as the worst team in NBA history. I've been talking about this with guys on the team for last two weeks telling them we at least need to get one more win. I think guys at first heard it but weren't thinking it was going to happen.
"But now everybody is aware it could happen, so we better get a win."