LOS ANGELES—It’s easy to analyze Derrick Rose’s torn right medial meniscus from a fan or media perspective.
Immediately, phrases like “not again,” speculation about whether the former league MVP would miss the remainder of the season and even practical opinions about type of surgery Rose should have abounded. But for the Bulls point guard’s teammates, people impacted more by his absence than even the most diehard supporters, the injury goes beyond just missing him on the court, which was evident after Sunday’s afternoon’s embarrassing 121-82 defeat at the hands of the Clippers at the Staples Center.
“We heard the news yesterday and when something bad happens to your little brother or family, you put everything aside. As much as I love playing with him and how much better we are as a team, just hearing that he got hurt I think it took the wind out of anyone. I’m not making excuses for this game. But as a human being, you just feel bad,” All-Star small forward Luol Deng explained. “We’ve got guys who are going to man up and play tough and play hard. When Derrick got hurt last time, we lost that playoff series [to Philadelphia in 2012]. It took us awhile to get going. We just have to make an adjustment and turn it around as quick as we can. We’re still missing Jimmy [Butler].
“I think it’s more your little brother being hurt. I think that’s why everyone’s head is down. It’s not so much the fact we don’t believe in each other or aren’t going to fight, it’s just that that’s a good kid and he worked so hard. We’ve seen him work hard and be the first one at practice every day and the last to leave and encouraging everybody. Coming back and making everyone believe we have the chance to do something special, when we took a hit like that it’s hard. The people that don’t know him had a hard time hearing that. The people that know him just know how much work he put into it,” Rose’s longtime teammate continued. “You are who you are. Sometimes with athletes in sports, luck has a lot to do with it. It’s just bad luck. It’s not going to change anything. He’s still going to be Derrick. He still is going to work hard and come back even better. I really believe that he was better coming back from that ACL. It’s unfortunate that it happened. I have no doubt he’s going to come back and play great.”
Kirk Hinrich, who replaced Rose as the Bulls’ starting point guard, offered similar sentiments about the situation.
“Obviously we’re disappointed as a team. We all feel for him. But we’ve been through this. We went through a lot as a team. We’ve got guys on this team who have seen a lot in their careers. We’ve just got to put this one behind us and we’ve got a big game that we’ve got tomorrow,” said Hinrich, who, like Deng, was on the Bulls when Rose first entered the league. “I reached out to him, I talked to his brother. It sounds like he’s doing okay, but it’s got to be tough for him to go through what he went through last year and have something like this happen again. So we’re all just hoping for the best. As teammates and his friends, we’re here for him. But we just have to, as a group, collectively somehow get it done.”
All-Star center Joakim Noah chimed in: “We’re all really disappointed right now. We’ve got to bounce back fast, but it’s tough with Derrick being out like this. We’re just hoping for the best and see how it goes…Derrick is a big part of this team and I know how hard he’s rehabbed this whole time to be on the court, and for this, I think it’s tough.”
Taj Gibson talked to Rose before the Chicago native headed back to his hometown Sunday to have surgery Monday.
“He really didn’t say much. Everybody just went in and gave their prayers, and asked him how he was, how he’s feeling,” Gibson recounted. “Everybody was just trying to keep him in good spirits, which we know he is.”
“You go through a lot with your teammate, a guy that you battle with on a nightly basis; we’ve been in a lot of wars with. It’s tough. Nobody wants to see their teammate hurt, especially because we’re such a close-knit group,” he went on to say. “But we’ve just got to push forward. He’s going to do his job and get back healthy. We’ve just got to do our job and continue to play well, and scratch out wins.”
Given that the Bulls played all of last season without Rose and have many of the same players back, the team believes they’re well equipped to again deal with his absence.
“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. We’ve just got to keep pushing. We’ve just got to understand that. Same scenario from last year. We’ve just got to step up.
We’ve just got to bounce back. It’s a long season. But we’ve got to get over this hump. We’ve got to push forward. Same thing we did last year. Just grind out games. We’ve got a lot of injuries right now. Injuries are going to happen in this league,” Gibson said. “Right now, there’s nothing about feeling sorry for ourselves. Right now, we’re focused on Utah and pushing forward.
“It’s all about back to the basics for us. Just getting back to this winning basketball. We dropped three in a row. We’re going to hear everything in the world from how bad we are, all this stuff. But we’ve just got to bounce back. It’s a long season and we’ve been through a lot, we’ve witnessed the ups and downs, and one thing about it, we’re seeing some downs right now. But we’ve just got to push ourselves out of it,” he continued. “One thing about us, we’ve been through a lot. If you look at our stats and everything the last couple years, we’ve been through a lot and we understand what it takes.
Hinrich added: “Last year I think we were in a similar position. I think we were 5-5, I remember at one point. We just have to stay together. We’re a little bit disjointed right now, took some hits. But we just have to keep moving forward.”
Known as a defensive-oriented squad, the Bulls will have to grind out games without their top offensive threat, not to mention the temporary absence of athletic swingman Jimmy Butler, who’s currently out with a turf-toe injury.
“That’s what we do. That’s how we play with or without Derrick. We try to play defense and play tough-nosed basketball. His scoring just comes and goes. But defense, the effort should always be there,” Deng explained. “[Butler will] be back. We’re definitely better with Jimmy. I really believe we’ll be fine. It takes time and adjustment. We’re definitely a better team with Derrick, but we can still win games and play tough without Derrick. It’s a tough adjustment, but we’ll make it.”