Like so many fans in Chicago and across the country, LeBron James was watching the Bulls the night Derrick Rose limped off the Rose Garden floor with what would become a torn meniscus, causing him to miss the rest of the regular season.
And like all those watching, James’ initial reaction was one of shock and disbelief.
“I didn’t want to believe it,” James said prior to the Heat’s matchup in Chicago tonight. “I was at home watching the Bulls-Blazers game when it happened. And I saw the play, Joakim caught it at the elbow and D-Rose went back-door, and I saw him kind of come up gimp.
“And I thought maybe he just twisted his ankle or something like that at the time, but when I saw them working on him on the sideline, on the bench, it didn’t look well.”
James has been a model of health in his 10-plus seasons, never missing more than seven regular-season games in a year.
But while the two-time reigning MVP can’t relate to what Rose has dealt with and will deal with, he also said that some in the Heat locker room are no stranger to knee injuries.
“The only person that can really relate to that in this locker room is Greg (Oden). I know D-Wade has had his fair share of knee injuries but he’s been able to come back but he’s dealt with the pain.”
Oden, who is still working his way back to the court after multiple knee surgeries and setbacks knocked him out of the NBA in 2010, and Wade, who will miss tonight’s game due to illness, have also dealt with knee injuries.
“To have a knee injury, come back and have another one, I think Greg can relate to that. I know I can’t relate to it,” James said. “I was hoping for the best for him and obviously the news wasn’t the best.”
Head coach Erik Spoelstra also said he’s hoping Rose can put together a speedy recovery, noting that the best competition is only so when teams are at full-strength.
[RELATED: Rose doesn't rule out a return this season]
“It was tough. It was disappointing to see, even from a competitor’s standpoint. One of our fiercest competitors,” the Miami head coach said. “You don’t want to see anyone go down in this league, and I think that speaks for all players and staff. He’s too good for this league, he’s too good for competition and I know how much work he put to get back into the game. But hopefully it’s not too bad. Hopefully he’ll be able to return sooner than later.”
James said that despite Rose’s latest setback, he’s confident the Chicago native will come back as strong as ever whenever he’s ready to return to the court.
“No doubt. He’s very young, but more than that he’s very determined,” James said. “And I think he’ll do great.”
Wade to miss second straight game
Shooting guard Dwyane Wade will miss his second straight game with an illness that forced him to remain at the team hotel for tonight's matchup.
"Really feeling under the weather, hit him hard this morning. Hopefully he'll feel better tomorrow," Spoelstra said.
Ray Allen will start in his place, and Spoelstra said he doesn't expect much to change in terms of his players' roles and expectations.
"We've done it before. Guys are ready, able and they're used to it, stepping into a slightly different rotation," he said.
James reflects on Nelson Mandela's passing
Former South African revolutionary Nelson Mandela passed away earlier Thursday, and LeBron James shared his thoughts on Mandela's death.
"His words, his mind will live on forever. In his 95 years he was able to do some unbelievable things, not only for South Africa but for the whole world. You hate to lose a pioneer, a great, but what they can leave behind means more than anything," James said.
"And I think what Nelson Mandela will leave behind is more than himself, and it's going to live on forever like Martin Luther King and so many other greats that come and go. It's a sad day for him family, obviously, but I think for us to all be in this position to see what he meant to this world while he was able to be here means everything."