Derrick Rose's season-ending injuries may indeed have been a 'fluke', as the Bulls are saying/hoping/lying. But what this latest one also did was take the spotlight off of this season as a championship-contending one. And while the focus has been away from the remaining Bulls except from us masochist die-hards, everybody else got friggin' hurt again.
If not for Rose's injury, would we have all been sniping about #ThibsBall, #FredClearedHim, and the impact on a supposed championship-level supporting cast? Maybe! Because it seems like not much has changed this year, as the Bulls are especially banged-up yet again.
First, the relatively-good news: heading into their Christmas-day game against Brooklyn, the Bulls expect Jimmy Butler (ankle) and Kirk Hinrich (well) to return. Hinrich made a joke about only playing "as long as I don’t get hurt walking to the car or getting off the couch", which would play better if we didn't actually expect him to get hurt doing that.
[deranged aside: Do you think Hinrich sits out games on purpose so that the silly "Bulls record with and without Kirk, my god!" stat stays in his favor? Like...he knows Teague and whoever else can't do much, so it shows his worth heading into free agency, where the Bulls will have a bidding war with themselves as they read deranged weirdos on twitter and their own broadcasters cite that figure. I don't actually think this, but I want to believe it as just another reason to not like the guy.]
But Hinrich's words about his ::checks pages of Hinrich injury list::....back, this time, do include the phrase "wear and tear". In Rose's absence we had a feeling he'd break down, and others seemingly have as well. And worse yet their quotes about it are a bit disturbing.
Here is a biggie from Luol Deng concerning his twice-injured Achillies tendon, which will likely keep him out of the Christmas Day game:
I played and it's just something that I just can't keep trying to ignore. Pretty much what I try to do is play and treat it, and see if I can get rid of it. But it doesn't seem like I can do that. So I had a lot of swelling up today and just made the decision that I've got to try to put it behind me and then start playing...
When it first happened, it wasn't something that just came out of nowhere. It actually happened in a game and I thought I twisted my ankle. Someone stepped on my Achilles' and it flared up, so I played a few games with it and just to make sure, they did an MRI and it showed there was no tear or anything.
The next thing was, ‘How can I put it behind me and play at the same time?' and I couldn't do that. Just the last two games, I've been favoring that a little bit and I could see that on the tape. I could see that, especially on my defense, not moving the way I want to move. The first game I came back, I was limping the next day. When we played Toronto, I was limping and the same thing today. It's just an injury that needs rest.
There's even more at CSNChicago, and the strange overriding aspect of the situation is that Deng barely mentions the Bulls trainers at all. Why is he diagnosing this, and seemingly unilaterally determining when to play and sit out? And then when returning (after missing 4 games) he plays 35, 41, and 35 minutes in the next three?
Has nothing changed? Over the summer the Bulls admitted they had a problem keeping guys healthy, and even made a special hire to help. This doesn't seem to be the case of Thibs needing to baby players in terms of minutes (not that I think it's great for DJ Augustin play nearly a whole game, mind you) , it's guys who are injured playing in games, and heavily so. For instance: Jimmy Butler's young, so it's tough to scream about his minutes needing reduction, but in the particular case of his first game back after missing 4 weeks with turf toe (reminder: in a game he was returned to play in) should he really be playing 36 minutes?
And the Deng quote suggests this question: who is communicating between the players, the trainers and Thibodeau? It seems unlikely the players will do anything but try to play, as Taj Gibson said last week:
these injuries that these guys are having are injuries that you really got to rest them. But the thing about these guys, everybody on this team, guys just keep pushing through injury. Instead of like any other team guys would just sit out, but these guys are still pushing, pushing the limit. No matter how hard it hurts they're still going. It's frustrating but things like that are going to happen. ... we don't know what else we can do, outside of going out there and keep playing hard.
I go day by day. I don’t look a week down the road or whatever. You never know. Sometimes a guy can feel a lot better that night. That’s the way I look at it. Get your treatment, come in twice a day, see the trainers, do everything they’re asking you to do. That’s your responsibility. You do that and you can’t go, then you can’t go. I think you owe that to the team
Thibs is a coach and he just gets told who is available. A little strange that it seems in his mind it's either a pass/fail in terms of health, but ok.
But where is the training staff in this? Should Luol Deng be looking at his own limping on tape to decide to sit out, or should Thibs never be told a guy can play but on a limited basis?
Is this the same old story that would've derailed this make-or-break season even if Rose stayed in one piece? Nazr Mohammed called the Bulls whole injury situation 'crazy', and maybe the Bulls have just gathered a group of injury-prone players and there's nothing they can do, but in some ways it seems quite explainable as an entirely broken system the Bulls have failed to address.