“I think we all feel awful for him,” Thibodeau said after Sunday’s practice. “Derrick’s not only a great player, he’s a great teammate, he’s a great person, but it’s not a death sentence. It’s not a death sentence for him, it’s not a death sentence for our team. He’s going to come back. He’ll come back better than ever. It’s just the way it is and we’ve got to deal with.”
Rose injured his left knee 1:22 left in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals series. An MRI performed after the game revealed the torn ACL.
General manager Gar Forman said there was “absolutely no issue at all” with Thibodeau leaving Rose in with the lead.
“There’s absolutely no issue there,” Forman said. “It’s a playoff game. They had cut a lead down to 12 and we’re going to have our guys on the floor making sure that we win the basketball game, especially in that situation.”
Forman said he was actually surprised such a controversy has developed regarding the decision.
“It never entered my mind,” Forman said of a potential controversy. “I was actually surprised when I heard it. But it’s absolutely no issue with us and I don’t see where it would be with anybody. Again, you’re in a playoff game where a lead has been cut by eight or 10 points. It’s a key time of the year and you’re trying to win the game, finish strong and win the game.”
The injury is expected to sideline Rose for six to nine months, but Thibodeau said that a definitive timetable has not been set yet and no surgery has been scheduled.
“I think they’re still going through it all right now so nothing’s been finalized,” Thibodeau said. “He still has to talk to the doctors, (athletic trainer) Fred (Tedeschi) and then lay out the plan. Normally there’s a waiting out period and then they’ll do the surgery down the road.”
Thibodeau said he has been texting with Rose since the injury and the 23-year-old MVP is handling the situation as well as he can.
“About as well as you can expect in this situation,” Thibodeau said. “I’ll talk to him after practice again, so he’ll deal with it. He’s a tough minded guy.”
The sadness which was permeated throughout the Bulls’ locker room Saturday afternoon was still palpable at the Berto Center on Sunday.
“Any time any of our players get hurt, obviously you’re disappointed,” Forman said. “Our goal was to be 100 percent going into the playoffs which we felt we were. It’s obviously disappointing for Derrick, it’s disappointing for the organization … I think the players feel that we’ve got enough to get it done and have success and certainly as a coaching staff and a front office, we’ve feel we’ve got enough to get it done and have success and we think we’ve proven that throughout the year. Our bench has been real key and when guys have gone down, other guys have stepped up. We’ll continue to move forward.”
That’s the position the Bulls’ players are taking as well.
“We’re not going to let anybody paint the picture for us,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said. “Obviously, it’s tough losing Derrick. I feel for him, but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”
Noah said he would have to be one of many leaders who have to play better in Rose’s absence.
“The whole team has to step up,” Noah said. “Our margin for error is a lot smaller with Derrick out. Can you replace a guy like Derrick? No. But it’s on us to step up as much as possible.”
It’s something that the Bulls have gotten used to this season with Rose already missing 27 games this season because of various injuries.
Forman said he didn’t believe that Rose’s latest knee injury had anything to do with the others he has already dealt with this season.
“It’s really a freak type injury,” Forman said. “This injury could happen in the first minute of the game, it could happen midway through the game. It can happen at the end of the game. I can happen in practice. When it happens, it happens. But it really is a freak type injury as far as that’s concerned. It could happen to anybody at any time and unfortunately it happened to Derrick (Saturday).”
Despite the uncertainty regarding his future, all seemed confident Rose would eventually make a full recovery.
“I expect him to come back and fully recover and be better than ever,” Thibodeau said.