CHICAGO – No rhyme, no reason. Could be that Derrick Rose is snake-bit, whatever that is. Could be karma or kismet or some other form of lousy luck. Could be that one of his luxury residences is built on a sacred burial ground and the payback stinks.
But the “why him?” of Rose’s litany of injuries, even if it was a part of the Chicago Bulls’ locker room dismay, wasn’t a topic of conversation during the second workout of training camp Wednesday or in their public comments afterward.
The half-empty view of Rose – the Bulls’ oft-injured point guard who suffered a facial fracture in the first practice of 2015-16 a day earlier and underwent surgery Wednesday morning – was that this team is locked in a gauze-wrapped “Groundhog Day,” unable to get and keep Rose healthy to seriously contend for the NBA championship.
The half-full view was, who knows rehab better than Rose and the Bulls?
Coach Fred Hoiberg said Rose’s surgery went as expected and revealed no structural damage beyond the left orbital fracture initially diagnosed. A timetable for his return to workouts and, presumably with a protective mask, his availability to practice and eventually play still was being determined by the team’s medical staff.
“He’s still in great spirits,” said Hoiberg, who said he texted with Rose Tuesday evening but had not spoken with him after surgery. “It’s not a structural injury. When he comes back ready to go, he should be able to go right back into 100 percent. Where if you have something going on with one of your other body parts, it’s going to be gradually [getting] back.”
Rose, who turns 27 Sunday, was running along the baseline early in practice Tuesday when he accidentally got struck by an elbow from one of the Bulls’ big men. Just like that, Hoiberg – who had gotten a taste of Chicago’s injury misfortunes last week when veteran forward Mike Dunleavy underwent back surgery – found himself in Tom Thibodeau‘s coaching sneakers.
Veterans Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich are the backups at point guard, with E’Twaun Moore and even Jimmy Butler available for playmaking minutes. But while Thibodeau had familiarity and continuity on his staff’s side, able to keep Rose’s spot warm with the likes of Nate Robinson, D.J. Augustin, John Lucas III, Brooks and Hinrich through the former MVP’s previous absences, Hoiberg has new strategies and a new style. Rose is missing the early classes now, with the Bulls hoping that doesn’t mess up their whole semester.
“He’s a tough kid,” center Pau Gasol said. “Hopefully he’ll heal well and he’ll be ready to go [by opening night vs. Cleveland Oct. 27]. But it’s unfortunate he won’t be able to be a part of most of training camp or the preseason because it’s a useful time for any team to get things on track. Set the foundation for the season, especially with a new system, new philosophy, a new coach. But no excuses – life works out that way some times and you’ve just got to keep working.”
Said Hoiberg: “He’s still going to be here. He’s still going to be at practice. He’ll still be learning. … He’s in great shape. We don’t know how much he’ll be able to do while he’s in recovery mode. But he still will be here learning.”
Facial injuries similar to Rose’s are not uncommon in the NBA, with LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Joe Johnson, Chris Paul, Jason Terry and others suffering various hits and returning to action in a few weeks or less. Rose’s multiple knee injuries have forced longer layoffs and more time away from the team, so that is a relative bright side to this trauma.
No one among the Bulls had even a theory, other than rotten probability, why Rose would be the franchise’s limping medical chart. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, he has missed 212 of 312 possible regular season games, playing in 340 of 558 in his seven-year NBA career.
Hoiberg shrugged off the suggestion of a woe-is-me attitude, though certainly this is an old issue bleeding into a new era.
“We’ve still got a job to do,” he said. “We can’t hang our heads or feel sorry for ourselves. It’s about getting these guys prepared to go out and play. You’re right, injuries are a part of this. Guys have stepped in in the past with this team and given great minutes when key guys have been sidelined.”
The Bulls play their first preseason game Tuesday against Milwaukee at United Center.
Center Joakim Noah, a close to Rose as any of the Bulls players, said both his sidelined pal and his other teammates are staying chins-up.
“We’ve got to stay positive,” Noah said. “We’re living out our dreams. We play for the Chicago Bulls for a living. Things could be a lot worse.”