When the Bulls play the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night, there will be a myriad of questions about Rose and his health asked to all the players and officials in the Chicago organization.
Whether the Bulls win or lose, the focus will fall back to Rose and when he will return to the lineup.
Despite being without the star point guard, the Bulls have amassed an impressive 32-25 record so far in the regular season (sixth in the Eastern Conference and 10 games out of first place).
As solid as they have been defensively, Chicago desperately misses the offensive touch of Rose.
With just 92.6 points per game, the Bulls are currently ranked 28th in the league in that category, and the questions about when the much-needed Rose would return have increased exponentially with every loss.
Chicago is 4-8 in February, and the longer the team struggles, the more the talk of Rose’s injury will continue to distract the players.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau told K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune about playing without the former MVP, but stated that the hype around Rose’s potential return has not and should not distract the Bulls:
I’ve said this many times: It’s the challenge that we face. Every day, you’re faced with different things that can distract you if you allow it to. You have to guard against that constantly. Sometimes it’s injury. Sometimes it’s schedule. Taj (Gibson) out, Kirk (Hinrich) out, a lot of games on the road, back-to-backs, early start, late start. Whatever it is you have to guard against that stuff.
We knew going in what the circumstances were going to be this year. We had no idea (about Rose's return). There was no timetable. There was no date where we were saying, ‘OK, he’s going to be back this date.’ It’s when he’s ready. We knew that going in.
We can’t allow that to be an excuse for us not getting the job done. We have to get the job done. We’ve shown that we’re capable. We’re obviously of capable of playing better than we have been recently.
It is clear that Thibodeau is trying to do everything in his power to keep the current lineup of players focused and playing hard, but the barrage of constant questioning is beginning to take its toll on the veteran coach.
The team is not counting on Rose to come back in order to win, and the defense-first lineup Chicago puts on the floor each night is still one of the most talented in the league.
The Bulls are lacking the elite scorer to put them over the edge, though, and anyone that watches basketball knows Rose is that player. Knowing that the answer to the team’s problem is already under contract is a frustrating proposition, and the questions will continue to come regarding Rose’s recovery until he returns.
Chicago needs to play through the distraction and make the playoffs. Then, if Rose returns for the postseason, it could be the spark the team needs to make a serious run.
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