Saturday, April 28, 2012

Wilted Rose stuns Chicago


PHILADELPHIA - Game 1 of the Eastern Conference
quarterfinals was proceeding exactly as planned for the Chicago Bulls.

The East's top seed was dominating overmatched Philadelphia but with 70
seconds remaining, the storyline suddenly changed.

Derrick Rose, who fought through a litany of injuries during the regular
season, had to be helped off the court after driving to a jump-stop in the
lane and throwing a pass out to the right during the Bulls' 103-91 victory.
He crawled slowly to the floor and was lying on his back, grasping at his
knee, for several minutes near the baseline before he was removed.

What had been a party atmosphere at the Madhouse on Madison turned into a
library. The crowd was stunned and silent, fearing the worst.

Those of us who have been around sports have seen far too many of these
injuries to not immediately play WebMD and quickly come up with the three
letters that send a chill up any athlete's spine  -- ACL.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau hoped for the best after the game but everyone
already knew.

Chicago confirmed the worst fears with a short press release revealing that
Rose had indeed torn his Anterior Cruciate Ligament and will miss the
remainder of the playoffs. When Bulls public relations maven Matt Yob pressed
the send key on that e-mail, he was also signaling the end of Chicago's
championship aspirations.

The reigning NBA MVP, who missed 27 games during the regular season with a
litany of injuries, had shown signs of regaining his dynamic form against the
Sixers, nearly putting up a triple-double with 23 points, nine rebounds and
nine assists. Now the Bulls will have to continue their playoff run without
their superstar.

"It's part of the game. There are going to be injuries. A guy could get hurt
in practice, a guy could get hurt in the first five minutes of the game, he
can get hurt at the end of the game. He can get hurt any time, and you've got
to deal with it," Thibodeau said.

Chicago will deal with it against the offensively-challenged 76ers. C.J.
Watson started 25 games in place of Rose during the regular season and has
already outplayed Philadelphia's Jrue Holiday on a couple of occasions.
Meanwhile, John Lucas and Mike James can certainly provide enough capable
minutes in reserve to get Chicago to the second round.

With or without Rose the Bulls will beat Philadelphia, and heck, it's
conceivable that they could take a semifinals matchup with either Boston or
Atlanta but that's the end of the line.

This Chicago team is built around the talents of Rose, and it's just not
capable of making a championship run without him.

Carlos Boozer may be able to play with an Elton Brand who has little lift and
explosion these days but the lengthy Chris Bosh looms in South Beach. Rip
Hamilton can make Jodie Meeks look foolish but Dwyane Wade is warming up. Luol
Deng can force Andre Iguodala into a horrible shooting effort but LeBron James
is on the horizon.

Thibodeau is probably going to get killed in the Second City for keeping Rose
in during the waning moments of a rout but that's specious thinking. Rose
needed the minutes to shake off the rust and at the end of the day, no one
even touched the star-crossed point guard.

He just collapsed -- just like the Bulls season.

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