By Sam Zuba-
(CBS) If a picture is worth one thousand words, then this was worth one million.
Derrick Rose sat alone in a luxury box at the United Center, a seat open to his right and two open to his left, while his teammates took on the 76ers in Game 2 without him.
All Rose could do was watch as the team he’s led for four seasons fell, 109-92, in front of a disappointed Red Sea that ultimately turned into a sea of red empty seats.
The troubling part for Rose and the Bulls is that this is their new reality for the foreseeable future. There’s no quick fix, no magic wand you can wave to instantly repair Rose’s torn anterior cruciate ligament. Rose will need time – likely six to nine months of rehab – before he will again don the No. 1 jersey he’s made famous in Chicago.
In their first game since losing Rose for the duration of the playoffs, the Bulls were lackluster at best. If you need further proof, look no further than the 36 points they gave up in the third quarter.
Still, the team won’t use Rose’s absence as a crutch.
“We’re not going to make any excuses,” Luol Deng said. “We’ve got enough guys here. We’re good enough. We just didn’t show up in the second half.
“Tonight was embarrassing. But no one’s going to feel sorry for us. We all have to step it up. It is what it is. This is our job. We’re grown men. We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to go out there and play. Some nights, you’re going to play well. Some nights, you’re not. But defensively, you can never make an excuse. That’s not who we are and what we showed tonight.”
Before the drudging put on by the 76ers began, Rose limped to center court to present the game ball on behalf of his team. The crowd erupted as the reigning MVP took the floor for what was likely the final time this season.
“M-V-P, M-V-P” the crowd chanted passionately. Rose lifted his arm in recognition, but couldn’t bring himself to smile. His pain was palpable, but that pain is just beginning. Rose and the Bulls are headed down a long, dark path with the destination unknown.
What should have been the prime of the young point guard’s career will now forever be marred by a series of unfortunate injuries. Whether or not Rose will be the same player when he returns remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, however, this is the Bulls’ new reality.
So, welcome to it.
Sam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com. Before earning a degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, he spent two summers covering the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago Cubs for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SamZuba and read more of his columns here.