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posted: 10/14/2013 9:03 PM

Managing Rose minutes tricky for Bulls

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  • Derrick Rose watches as his Bulls teammates warm up before their preseason game against the Washington Wizards in Brazil on Saturday. Rose missed sat out the game with soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.

    Derrick Rose watches as his Bulls teammates warm up before their preseason game against the Washington Wizards in Brazil on Saturday. Rose missed sat out the game with soreness in his surgically repaired left knee.
    Associated Press


A couple preseason games into the schedule and Derrick Rose has knee soreness, hardly an arrested development under the circumstances.

It's a normal occurrence after surgery, so Rose sitting out an exhibition game over the weekend shouldn't raise red flags or eyebrows.

This is the preseason, an obvious time to take precautions and minimize the effects of a strenuous program on a knee that's barely been tested in games, so that it doesn't become chronic and jeopardize the health of an MVP candidate -- or the Bulls' season.

It's the time for common sense and resting players who need it, and that's something Tom Thibodeau simply can't do during the regular season. It goes against his nature, so if a player can walk or crawl, he's healthy enough to play 45 minutes in Thibodeau's world.

He's proven it over the years with Rose, Luol Deng and especially Joakim Noah. It doesn't matter the extent of the injury or whether the game is against Miami or Sacramento. Thibodeau will run them into the ground to win a game.

What makes Thibodeau a great coach is what also makes him so dangerous as it applies to Rose -- who went through a full practice with no issues Monday -- or any injured player.

He coaches every possession of every game of every season like it's his last. It's why the Bulls might finish with the best record in the NBA again, but he has no concept of saving something for the postseason, or managing his players' health.

"He still had the soreness," Thibodeau told reporters when Rose was scratched over the weekend. "So we anticipated giving him time off."

If that doesn't make you laugh -- coming from Thibodeau -- it's only because you fear for Rose. Thibodeau anticipating "time off" is like Illinois lawmakers anticipating the pension crisis.

"I know I'm going to be ready for the regular season," Rose said. "I could've played, but the front office made the decision to sit me out. I was fine with it."

Right, the front office. This is the same front office that canned Thibodeau favorite Ron Adams, leading to what is surely a strained relationship.

But it's the front office that will have to make game-day decisions on Rose, should they occur down the road, because Thibodeau simply can't be trusted to think beyond tonight's game and toward the future. He doesn't operate that way.

This is not the last we will hear of knee soreness, but at the start of training camp the Bulls said there would be no restrictions on Rose and already they are thinking in terms of how to manage his knee.

"He's got some soreness again, and we wanted to be conservative with it at this point," said Bulls GM Gar Forman. "I think he understands the same thing.

"Coming back from any injury, there are going to be some ups and downs as he readjusts to playing a high level of basketball.

"If there's soreness, then we're going to rest. Any time you're dealing with any type of injury or soreness, you're concerned. But it's not a major red flag or huge concern."

Assuming no major concerns during the season, a reasonable coach might give a player coming off a serious injury a night off a couple times. Coaches around the NBA do it every year, but not Thibodeau.

So it will have to be Forman and John Paxson making that call without consulting the head coach, who would never consider such an option.

This is the best and worst of Thibodeau. His relentless coaching and refusal to give in is the reason the injury-ravaged Bulls got past Brooklyn in the opening series last spring and managed to win a game against Miami.

But that same mindset prevents him from understanding players have limits and only so many minutes in them during the course of a season and a brutal playoff run.

That's why any issues dealing with Rose have to be taken out of his hands, and it will be fascinating -- in a 10-car pileup sort of way -- to see how the front office manages to limit minutes for Rose when the head coach can't make himself do it.

It might mean taking days off entirely, and it means taking the decision out of Thibodeau's hands.

In season with so much uncertainty, it seems likely to make a splintered relationship worse.

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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