By Jeff Barker
The Chicago Bulls’ supporting cast played a patient month and a half of basketball, just waiting to bring Derrick Rose back in for the playoffs.
The reigning MVP missed many games down the stretch, but the Bulls battled to hang on to the East’s 1 seed without him, splitting two April games with the Heat.
Questions loomed heading into the inaugural bout of the 2012 playoffs: could D-Rose overcome back, foot, and groin injuries from the regular season? Could he step right back in and elevate the team from the regular season’s best to NBA champs?
Now all those questions are moot, thanks to a garbage-time ACL tear.
With the Bulls up by 12 points with less than a minute and half left in the game, Rose was still in the thick of the action. Mid-jump cut, he felt a pop, crumpled to the floor, and knew it was over.
If Rose hadn’t been injured throughout the year, maybe this was permissible, given Tom Thibodeau’s habit of leaving starters in until the final horn. Tough-minded business as usual interrupted by a freak accident.
But this was your best player attempting to come back from injury. You have to treat him as a somewhat fragile commodity that needs to be protected.
Yes, he has to be out there on the floor to help the team win the game. Arguably, the Bulls could have gone in with a plan to have Rose play 30 minutes against a team that they’ll in all likelihood still get past post-ACL tear. He played 37.
With six minutes left in the game, Rose drained a three to put the Bulls up 93-73. Some coaches would have sat him right after that. Thibodeau didn’t.