Michael Jordan thinks Derrick Rose is the “MVP of the season.”
Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf believes that, as long as they stay healthy, these Bulls could win “at least four championships.”
Members of the Celtics got to spend time with Barack Obama on Tuesday night before a fundraiser at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the President wanted to talk about the Bulls. Specifically, Obama thanked the Celtics for “giving” coach Tom Thibodeau to the Bulls.
Talk about buzz.
With all that serving as a backdrop, the Bulls blew out the Bobcats in Charlotte, winning for the 11th time in 13 games, moving to within 1.5 games of the Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference, and clinching their sixth playoff berth in the last seven seasons.
Of course, no “dream come true” moment is complete without a sobering dose of reality. In this case, the reality check was delivered in the form of a flagrant foul by Kwame Brown that put Carlos Boozer on the ground and injured the big man’s ankle in the process.
The incident occurred with 4:24 left in the game and the Bulls leading 92-75. Considering the circumstances — Chicago was in full control and Taj Gibson (14 points, 6-for-7) was playing better than Boozer (10 points, 4-for-9) anyway — you have to wonder why Carlos was still in the game at all. But then again, Thibodeau has had a habit this season of leaving his starters in the game longer than absolutely necessary.
I’m not blaming Thibs. Not exactly. But Rose was sitting at the time. Why not Booz?
Oh well. No use crying over milk that’s already been spilled. Which means we have to move on to the more important subject: The extent of Boozer’s injury.
It sure looked bad, didn’t it? Boozer walked to the bench under his own power. But he declined to shoot his free throws — Kyle Korver knocked them down in his place — and limped gingerly to the locker room before play could resume. His night was over. And his season could be on hold for…nobody knows how long.
Said Thibodeau: ‘‘The X-rays were negative. It’s too early. We’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow what type of swelling he has. It’s his left ankle. He came down pretty hard. I’m hoping it’s just his ankle.’’
Well, that tells us a fat lot of nothing.
Said Joakim Noah (12 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks): “[Boozer] said it hurts but it’s not too bad or broken or anything. Carlos brings a lot because of what he can do offensively. But we’re confident and capable. Taj is a helluva player. He’s someone you can rely on to step up and play physical and tough.”
Added Rose (20 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals): “It’s going to hurt us [if Boozer is out], but we still have to go out there and play the game. It’s going to take a lot more energy, a lot more focus going into games. And people are going to have to step up. If it happens, Taj did a great job when Carlos was out before. People are going to have to play big minutes. I think our team should be fine, but I hope he plays the next game.”
I hope so, too. But I also hope Taj is ready. Just in case.
Said Gibson: “I’ve been in this role many times the last two years. I have to get my mind right if it does happen, and just play my game, play with a lot of energy, and just try to hold it down while he’s down.”
As for the game, this was one of those “take care of business” wins. The Bobcats were without leading scorer Stephen Jackson (hamstring), sixth man Tyrus Thomas (knee surgery), backup center Joel Przybilla (knee) and reserve guard Matt Carroll (ankle). Charlotte shot lights out in the first half, but Chicago held them to 35 points in the second half to win going away.
Ultimately, the Bulls wore the Bobcats down with their defense and depth. Speaking of which, the reserves poured in 51 points, led by Kyle Korver (20 points on 7-for-10 shooting), Gibson (who, again, scored 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting) and Ronnie Brewer (10 points on 4-for-8 shooting).
Said Thibodeau: “We needed them. The first half, offensively we were good, defensively we were poor, very poor. The second half, the defense started coming around, and the bench was great. Carlos got in the early foul trouble, so that hurt us, but Taj came in, did a great job. Ronnie was playing really well, and, of course, Kyle, so they did a great job and C.J. was running the team well.”
The bench has been great this season. It really has. And it’ll have to be even better if Boozer has to miss many games. Okay, “have to be” may be overstating things. But the Bulls are trying to hold onto the second seed in the East while setting sights on the first seed. So, assuming the expectations remain high, the reserves will have to help carry the team through this crucial late-season stretch.
Jerry Reinsdorf, quote machine:
“If you don’t see something special in Derrick Rose, then you’re blind. We have an outstanding coach, an outstanding bunch of players, the team is deep, and if we stay healthy we have an awfully good chance of winning at least four championships.”
Michael Jordan, quote machine:
“[Rose] deserves [the MVP]. He’s playing that well. He deserves it. Without a doubt. And if he doesn’t get it, now he’ll see how I felt a lot of years.”