The last time he addressed the media in Chicago, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he thought Derrick Rose was "real close to exploding."
He meant as far as Rose returning to MVP form, so there's no point trying to turn that into a knee joke.
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Bulls game dayBulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, 6:30 p.m. Saturday
TV/radio: WGN/ ESPN 1000-AM
At a glance: Back when the Bulls were at full strength, they handled the Cavaliers 96-81 on Nov. 11 at the UC with six players scoring in double figures. Cleveland had lost four in a row heading into Friday's game at Boston. PG Kyrie Irving is averaging 21.0 points and 6.0 rebounds. Second-year SG Dion Waiters, reportedly on the trading block, is at 13.8 points. The Cavs rank 25th in the league in scoring offense (92.6 ppg). SG C.J. Miles was expected to miss his fourth straight game Friday with a calf injury. The Bulls are 11-1 against Cleveland since LeBron James left.
Next: New Orleans Pelicans at the United Center, 7 p.m. Monday
-- Mike McGraw
The Bulls practiced at the Berto Center on Friday for the first time since Nov. 19, before the circus road trip began. The circumstances have changed drastically in the meantime. Rose is out for the season due to cartilage damage in his right knee.
The injury news creates a clear conflict in how to perceive the remainder of the season. Thibodeau is all about putting everything you have into every single day. But with Rose sidelined and changes coming to the roster, others might suggest going all out to win games is a futile gesture. A chance to land Jabari Parker or one of his friends in the draft might be a better option for the franchise's future.
Thibodeau addressed that conflict Friday and made a convincing argument for sticking to his plan.
"The important thing for the team is it really doesn't matter what other people think," Thibodeau said. "It's just like at the beginning of the season when people pick certain teams to do something and often times they're wrong. So you have to play the games and you have to concentrate on your improvement.
"You never know how things unfold. Someone else may take on an injury at a critical time. At the end of last year, I felt very good about the way we were playing. I felt we had a chance against anybody. Unfortunately, in the end, we lost a couple guys (Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich) in the playoffs that I would have loved to have had. But that's the way it works sometimes."
True, it is possible Dwyane Wade could hurt himself doing postgame cartwheels. We already know the Eastern Conference is weak, so the Bulls landing the No. 3 playoff seed without Rose really isn't far-fetched.
As of Friday morning, 10 teams in the Western Conference owned winning records, compared to two in the East.
"We've been in this position many times before. It's just time for guys to step up," said Taj Gibson, who scored a career-high 23 points in Wednesday's win at Detroit. "We only care about what our team thinks, and everybody's positive. We have to take the outside world out and just have fun and play games."
The win at Detroit snapped a four-game losing streak, but the Bulls could easily have beaten Portland and Utah. Beginning with Saturday's game at Cleveland, eight of the next nine opponents currently own losing records and the Bulls will play six of those at home.
If Gibson, Luol Deng and rookie Tony Snell continue to play well, then Jimmy Butler returns from a turf toe injury, the Bulls' outlook might seem less grim.
"I coached in New York when we were an eight seed and we made it to the Finals (in 1999)," Thibodeau said. "So you do the best you can each and every day, there will be some things that develop along the way. Some guys are going to step up.
"But I have a lot of confidence in our team. I think these guys are serious about the way they approach things. They play as a team. I think we'll continue to improve and we'll see how it unfolds."