CHICAGO – The symmetry wasn’t lost on Doug Collins. Ten months ago, he and his Philadelphia 76ers team were walking the same halls, dressing in the same stalls, taking to the same United Center court for a game that would be, and remains, Derrick Rose‘s last. The Chicago Bulls’ electric point guard blew out the ACL in his left knee late in Game 1, Day 1, of the 2012 NBA playoffs.
The Sixers had been back in town in December, but their game Thursday night was the one that fit the rehab timeline and stirred up a little déjà vu. Rose got hurt on April 28. Here it was, 10 months later. Exactly.
“Derrick, I thought for sure he was going to play tonight,” Collins said about 90 minutes before tipoff. “Y’know, got hurt against Philadelphia, come back against Philadelphia. Game on TNT. I could just see him running out, y’know, with the adidas commercial tonight.”
No such luck. While few around the team would put it past the Bulls’ inner circle to spring Rose back into action as a surprise – coach Tom Thibodeau is notorious for his “game-time decisions” – his sidelined All-Star point guard again was on the inactive list. Same with Philadelphia center Andrew Bynum, the alleged game-changing big man who has played precisely as many minutes this season as Rose. Bynum remains out with bilateral knee bone bruises – good thing he only has two legs – and, with free agency looming this summer, is at risk of a phantom Philly season.
Some have wondered if a recent Bulls slump might be related to the distraction of waiting for Rose. Collins’ team has been waiting, too, but under different circumstances.
“We traded three guys to get a guy who hasn’t played at all this year,” said Collins, without naming Andre Iguodala, Mo Harkless and Nikola Vucevic, helpful pieces in Denver and Orlando. “The Bulls have a player who’s injured but he’s been here the whole time. So the dynamics are a little different. We gave up a lot in that trade, and that’s been tough.”
As a player with Philadephia in the 1970s, Collins battled leg injuries, with some speculating that he might have hurried back too soon. That led to more Rose questions, though his “hurrying back” might mean October.
“The Chicago Bulls have a tremendous investment in Derrick Rose. You want to make sure that this young guy is going to be ready to go,” Collins said. “We take a guy like Adrian Peterson and we say, ‘This guy rehabbed and was back and was playing football … and you kind of expect everybody to have the same timetable.’ Knees are different. Every player is different. Everybody’s game is different.”
Anyone who recalls Rose’s injury 10 months ago, when he came to a jump stop, then damaged his leg as he exploded up, can understand what Collins said next.
“Derrick is an explosive player. He plays in the lane. He’s landing in a lot of bodies, in a lot of congestion,” the coach said. “More important, he’s going to have to be very confident when he plays, about being able to explode off that leg, being able to come down in a crowd and do the things he has to do.
“[Chicago team chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf and the Bulls organization are not short-sighted people. They don’t do that. They view the big picture. I think they feel they have a franchise that has a chance to be good for a long, long time. And Derrick Rose is the guy who is going to make that special.”