Derrick Rose Injury: Will It Crush Chicago Bulls' Title Hopes?

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IIApril 11, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 28:  Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls looks on from the bench against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on March 28, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Standing on the court watching Derrick Rose practice Tuesday night before the game against New York, I was surprised at how good he looked after hearing about his ankle sprain. For a moment, I thought he would play in the game, but the Bulls chose the future over the present.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said as much after the game. "If we're going to err, we're going to err on the side of caution. He wanted to play and we felt it was best that he didn't. I just think it was the smart thing to do in this situation."

It was the smart thing to do, but unless you can wrap Rose in a hermetically-sealed bubble that protects him from himself, he can get re-injured at any time. Nobody knew he was hurt after the Knicks game on Sunday until word came out that he tweaked his ankle and was day-to-day.  

Rose only knows one speed, and that is warp. He's not going to change his game anytime soon. He might have to in the future to survive and have a long career, but that's not going to matter come this year's playoffs.

He's not likely to be at 100 percent this season. For that, he's going to need a summer to rest the various maladies that have hampered him. Even that might not be a possibility, with this being an Olympic year and him being a likely participant.

But that's the future and we're talking now. What the Bulls have to do now is get as healthy as possible entering the playoffs, along with getting acclimated to playing with each other.

Rose and Rip Hamilton need to feel comfortable with each other. Hamilton assimilates to the offense well, but he needs time to play with Rose to get the familiarity that is essential in the playoffs, and to beat the Heat.

He was brought in as the piece to get them by Miami. I asked him if he felt any extra pressure because of that.

"You can't just think of Miami. You have to think about taking one series at a time. You can't get caught up in all that. It's a great situation for me, it's a great situation for the organization, and I'm just happy to be a part of it."

Even though Hamilton has missed even more games than Rose, that might be a blessing in disguise. I asked him—even though nobody wants to be injured—if it might be a benefit for him heading into the playoffs.

"With this season probably yes, because of so many games being played in a short amount of time. Our bodies are not used to it."

That may be the reason Rose has suffered so many setbacks this year. He hasn't had the time to rest and heal. With an injury, you often compensate in how you play, and that can lead to other injuries.  

While it looked like his latest injury was due to stepping on another player's foot, the toe, back and groin could be directly related.

And that's the thing—one setback can lead to another. You never know when that freak injury can occur. With Rose hobbled as much as he has been this year, Hamilton gone for a such a long spell and Luol Deng nursing a wrist injury that will follow him through the playoffs, the Bulls are in a tough spot.

They have managed to get by during the regular season because of their superior depth, but in the playoffs, they need their best players to be their best players, because the bench won't see as much playing time.

Last year they got the playoff experience that everyone puts so much value on. This year, nobody's going to be happy if they get back to the Eastern Conference Finals and have the same results.

Miami has been stumbling lately, but it's another game entirely in the playoffs. The Bulls have the advantage with the 'bigs,' but the question is whether that's enough to overcome Miami's star power, and whether the Bulls have a plan to score against Miami in the half-court game this time.

I asked Kyle Korver that exact question. "We've got to move the ball without turning it over. They're a great steals team. They've got great athletes that play the passing lane. You've got to move the ball side-to-side, because if they load up on you, they can contest shots and they're really tough. So, we've got to execute really well, for sure."

There are still many questions to be answered, including the health of Derrick Rose and his teammates. Those answers will determine whether the Bulls hold a ring ceremony next season, or use the familiar refrain Chicagoans are used to: "Wait until next year."

Darrell Horwitz is a Senior Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.