Tom Thibodeau might as well have started his postgame speech with, "Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli aren't walking through that door ..."
The first full game since Derrick Rose's right knee injury was likely a preview of what's in store. The Bulls were pounded by the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center 121-82, the largest margin of defeat in the NBA this season.
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Rose, meanwhile, headed back to Chicago and is expected to have surgery Monday, performed by team physician Dr. Brian Cole, who also did Rose's ACL surgery.
After the surgery, the Bulls will have a better idea what to expect with the recovery time. It will vary depending on the severity of the medial meniscus tear, along with whether the cartilage is repaired or removed.
"We're hoping for the best," coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters before the game. "We, of course, feel very badly for Derrick. I talked to him at length (Saturday) night. He's in good spirits; about as well as can be expected under the circumstances."
If Rose can make it back in two months or less, the Bulls might be able to salvage a playoff berth in the soft Eastern Conference and make a postseason run with their ideal lineup.
If Rose misses the remainder of the season, then management will have to think seriously about putting some veterans on the trading block. A lottery pick and roster flexibility next summer might be the better option.
Rose should be able to make a full recovery. This injury is much less serious than the torn ACL in his left knee. But we might have a better idea of what the future holds for the Bulls in the next few days.
Against the Clippers, they looked like a team in the wrong frame of mind. The Clips shot 63 percent in the first quarter and things never improved.
J.J. Redick (19 points) and Jared Dudley (21 points) combined to hit 16 of 21 shots from the field for the Clippers. Luol Deng led the Bulls (6-7) with 22 points, while Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy scored 14 each.
The Bulls didn't get much scoring from their bench (15 points), even though Taj Gibson, Nazr Mohammed, Marquis Teague and Tony Snell all played at least 20 minutes.
"It's tough for all of us with Derrick being out like this," Joakim Noah said. "We're just hoping for the best with him and see how it goes. Derrick is a big part of this team. I know how hard he rehabbed (from the ACL surgery) this whole time to be on the court."
Last season, the Bulls were built to survive without Rose. This year, they're not. Without a late-game closer like Robinson, it will be tough for the Bulls to even play .500 basketball while Rose sits.
Of course, giving in to tough circumstances is not part of Thibodeau's style.
"We've done it before," Thibodeau said of playing without Rose. "This is year No. 3 now, so we've got experience doing it. But we've got to get the fight. That's the first part of it -- the determination, the fight and the will. The core of the team in there is the same core we had last year."
Maybe, but the depth is not the same. Three young players -- Teague, Snell and Murphy -- started the season in the top 12. Now with Rose and Jimmy Butler (turf toe) out, there aren't as many veterans to rely on.
"We can't feel sorry for ourselves," Thibodeau said before the game. "We're the Chicago Bulls. We have one goal, that's to win. And I believe we have the personnel in that locker room to get it done."
Thibodeau won't find many fellow believers out there. But he'll get a chance to change some minds, beginning Monday in Utah.