Derrick Rose was an injury time bomb waiting to detonate.
It didn't matter if the reigning league MVP played the final 74 seconds of Game 1 against the Philadelphia 76ers with his team up a dozen or was camped next to Mike James on the bench.
Rose was going to suffer another boo-boo regardless. It should have been expected. After all, he hadn't played in three consecutive contests since early March. Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau cannot shoulder the blame for throwing caution to the wind and risking the franchise’s hopes for a seventh NBA championship by leaving his best player on the floor, considering starting small forward Luol Deng was also on the court when Rose crumbled to the ground after tearing his ACL. Deng has been playing most of the season with a torn ligament in his left wrist.
In a condensed season that featured 66 games in 124 days, three games in three nights, five games in six nights or seven games in 10 days, it was unrealistic to assume Rose or any other athlete could complete the campaign physically and mentally unscathed.
Normal bumps and bruises can lead to debilitating setbacks without ideal rest and medical treatment. NBA players had no such luxury of acquiring either. Star players such as Atlanta Hawks forward Al Horford, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard and even the iron man himself, Kobe Bryant, sat for stretches nursing injuries.
For Rose, he never was healthy in 2011-12. It was always something. A toe, ankle, hamstring, groin or foot. Game-time decision was his status more often than not. Truth be told, Rose wasn't 100 percent even as the Bulls entered the playoffs and never was going to be if their postseason run lasted until late June. Especially considering the reckless abandon-like performer Rose is to being with.
The 6'3", 200-pound point guard is more Matt Forte than Steve Nash, choosing on many occasions to literally cradle the ball like a running back and crash his body into hulking defenders at the rim, then crash his body onto the unforgiving hardwood floors of NBA arenas.
Rose is not equipped with control panel, which allows Thibodeau to set the All-Star on “low,” “medium” or “high” as needed.
Rose’s game is an acrobatic, powerful and dangerous one. Every next twitch, crossover, jump and cut is executed with explosive intent, stressing any and all fibers just like the forceful fourth-quarter jump stop in the paint that shredded the ligaments in his left knee Saturday.
Nothing the Bulls head coach, training staff or Rose himself could have done short of encasing the guard in bubble wrap. Rose was too worn, too tired, too beat up to flourish without malfunctioning. Rose finally gets the rest his weary physique has quietly yearned for.
But it came with an ultimate price.