It’s just the preseason, but the Bulls are already experiencing aches and pains, some of which is a product of their hard-playing style.
Veteran reserve guard Kirk Hinrich might embody that more than any other player on the team and in Friday night’s 103-98 win over the Pacers at the United Center, he paid the price, having to leave the contest after suffering a head injury in the fourth quarter.
“Not sure yet. Banged his head,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said of Hinrich’s status. “It appears to be a concussion, but I haven’t spoken to Fred [Tedeschi, the team’s head athletic trainer] yet.”
Similar to Hinrich, rookie Erik Murphy was another victim, hitting his head, but playing through it. The University of Florida product is no stranger to in-game injuries, as evidenced by breaking his nose and returning to the game in a July summer-league game in Las Vegas.
All-Star small forward Luol Deng also got nicked up, bumping his right knee in the first half before returning to the contest. Veteran center Nazr Mohammed sported a bandage over an eye, something that could be considered minor in the wake of the rest of the injury toll.
All of this took place in a game that starters Jimmy Butler and All-Star center Joakim Noah missed due to injury. Butler is nursing a bruised left knee that came in last Saturday’s win in Brazil, while Noah is shut down for a week as he recovers from a lingering strained groin suffered in an early training-camp practice at the Berto Center.
On the bright side, Derrick Rose reported suffering no ill effects after playing 31 minutes, the highest he’s played in the preseason. Rose scored 32 points and dished out nine assists in Friday’s victory.
“It’s just giving me some reassurance right now,” he said of his physical state. “Letting me know my leg is safe and me driving, laying the ball up against Roy [Hibbert] and all the big guys that they have on their team.”
Rose claimed that, if necessary, he could play even more minutes.
“If that’s what they ask me than yeah, but at the same time we have to be smart about the situation. It’s preseason,” he explained. “I’m happy [Thibodeau] threw me back out there, especially in that moment.
“It felt good, but at the same time I didn’t want to rush anything. He put me back in the game and I told him I would be ready,” Rose continued, referring to Thibodeau reinserting him into the game down the stretch, “Playing that extra four, five minutes, just trying to keep knocking rust off every night.”
But when asked whether he’d be ready to handle major minutes in the Bulls’ regular-season opener, Oct. 29 in Miami, the former league MVP’s emotions betrayed him.
“Oh, hell yeah,” he exclaimed. “I know I’ll be ready, but at the same time, just being smart, just looking at the situation, looking at how the game is going. If he pulls me, he pulls me but if not, I’ll be out there.”
It was evident that Rose’s conditioning and timing have returned, as he shot 8-for-15 from the field, 4-for-7 from three-point range and was aggressive enough to go 10-for-13 from the charity stripe. The Chicago native’s outside touch was one of the last aspects of his game to show that it’s back at his previous form.
“Yeah, I’m getting my feet under me. Really lifting the ball and just getting all them jitters out. But I’m fine and they were giving me the shot anyway. I was just taking them,” he said. “It’s just coming back to me. Like I said, getting my feet under me, my teammates did a good job finding me and I was wide open.
“Just taking what the defenses are giving me right now. Just trying to make the game as easy as possible and just trying to be more efficient.”
At least there’s some gain from all the Bulls’ pain.