Even before hearing the bad news about Derrick Rose, the Bulls were preparing mentally to move on without him.
It's a process they've grown accustomed to this season. Rose missed 27 games during the regular season with toe, back, groin and ankle injuries.
The Bulls went 18-9 without him, which based on winning percentage, would have been the fourth-best record in the NBA this season behind the Spurs, Thunder and Heat.
Naturally, the first player to step up will be John Lucas III, who salvaged a few wins for the Bulls this season with his accurate shooting.
“We responded to every challenge this year — Lu (Deng) being hurt, Derrick being hurt, C.J. (Watson) being out,” Lucas said. “We all stepped up. That's our mentality.”
When Rose went down with just over a minute remaining in Saturday's win over Philadelphia, Lucas wasn't focused on his future playing time.
“My whole concern was him,” Lucas said. “We basically had the game already won. Our whole concern was Derrick. That's our brother. We're a family around here.
“First thing I did, I was like, ‘Get up,' and I started saying a prayer. It alarms everybody when somebody's on the ground and doesn't jump back up.”
The coaching staff must have had an idea of how serious the injury was, because it had already scheduled a practice for Sunday — even though the series won't resume with Game 2 until Tuesday.
“If we have to move forward without D-Rose, we will,” Carlos Boozer said. “We're confident in the guys that would step in his place. C.J. and Luke have been playing great all season for us. They're played phenomenal for us. If we go that route, we're all confident in their abilities.”
Watson had five 20-point games during the regular season and two came against the Sixers. He didn't need to make much of a splash Saturday, finishing with 4 points and 5 assists. Lucas and Mike James didn't play in Game 1.
“The saddest win,” Kyle Korver said. “Regardless, we've got to pick ourselves up. We've played a lot of games this year without him. Seems like he was getting us ready for this.”
As he's repeated frequently all season, coach Tom Thibodeau stressed that the Bulls can win without Rose.
“Whatever the circumstances are, we'll deal with it,” he said. “We do have more than enough to win with.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.