By Adam Hoge-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) Wednesday night’s Bulls-Wizards game looked more like a rec league game than an NBA game.
And no one treated it as such more than John Lucas III.
Lucas not only got the start for the injured combination of Derrick Rose and C.J. Watson, but he played 45 minutes and had 28 field goal attempts in the Bulls’ 78-64 win over the Wizards.
Watching Lucas scamper around the court in circles and throw up floaters was actually pretty entertaining. But like you, I prefer my point guards driving to the basket and finishing strong.
Yes, the Bulls look decidedly less like an Eastern Conference power without Rose, but duh, he’s the reigning MVP.
I know what you are thinking. I heard it from the fans Wednesday night and I saw it on Twitter. You need Derrick Rose back ASAP, because the Bulls struggled against the worst team in the NBA.
No matter that it was the third game in three nights. No matter that other than a shootaround, the Bulls had no time to practice with John Lucas III as their starting point guard. No matter that Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah only combined for eight points in 40 minutes.
You’ve reached the conclusion that the Bulls need Derrick Rose on the court every night.
The Bulls could and would make the playoffs without Rose the rest of the way.
Luckily, they don’t have to do that. Head coach Tom Thibodeau said Wednesday that Rose will be back “when the pain subsides for him to play. Hopefully tomorrow or the next day.”
But if I’m Thibs, I’m going with “the next day”. Or better yet, the day after that. Or the day after that.
While you looked at Wednesday night’s game and said the Bulls need Rose back immediately because they are decidedly worse without him, I looked at Wednesday night’s game and said the Bulls need to get him as healthy as possible because they are decidedly worse without him.
The games at the end of the season matter a lot more than the games now.
Thibodeau says Rose has a “sprained toe” and not turf toe and there is a difference. A sprain is not as bad. In other words, the injury will likely not derail Rose’s season like turf toe often can.
“It’s a pain tolerance thing,” Thibodeau said. “It’s a sprain. He’s gotten a lot of treatment. He usually responds very well to treatment.”
And Rose is used to playing with pain. That said, the Bulls need to let the toe get healthy and not rush him back.
While John Lucas III reminded me of the guy who won’t pass me the ball at the gym, he proved he was serviceable. No, he’s not a starting NBA point guard, but he can play for you in a pinch. That’s what Wednesday was, a pinch. Hell, the point guard they signed right before tipoff was stuck in rush hour traffic trying to get to the game on time.
Lucas finished with a career-high 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, but he only made 11-of-28 shots. That’s what you are going to get from if he has to play 45 minutes a game.
The bigger problem is that the entire offense was out of sync without Rose on the court. Boozer and Noah – who already haven’t been great – looked awful without him. Ronnie Brewer was also non-factor. Kyle Korver, who hit 5-of-10 shots and scored 14 points, was pretty much the only player who showed any chemistry with Lucas.
That said, the Bulls can and will play better with Rose on the bench. Luol Deng’s 5-for-21 output can almost assuredly be tied to playing three games in three nights and he still managed to pull down 15 rebounds. In addition, Thibodeau said Wednesday that C.J. Watson and Richard Hamilton are close to returning. They just want to give them a practice before they return. That means you could see them either Friday against the Celtics or Saturday against the Raptors.
Not having Rose hurts, but toe injuries can be tricky and it would be much better to have him sit on the bench now rather than have it be a problem later in the season.
Remember, no one wants Rose to play more than Rose. And that’s why no one should underestimate this injury. If he didn’t play Wednesday, he’s definitely hurt. Keep in mind, he was wearing a walking boot.
And Rose’s desire to play is also why the Bulls need to be careful with him. They can’t let him push it too hard in this whirlwind of a season.
Thibodeau said it best before Wednesday’s game when he said: “There’s a difference between being hurt and injured.”
Right now Rose is just hurt. They have to make sure he doesn’t get injured.
Better to be safe than sorry and save him for when it matters most.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the White Sox, Blackhawks and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.