Given the Bulls' myriad injuries and lengthy, time-zone-jumping road trip, Fred Hoiberg defended the team's decision to rest point guard Derrick Rose in Monday night's loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
Rose was scratched from the lineup about 15 minutes prior to tip-off in Charlotte and was ruled out with "general body soreness" before the Bulls' 108-91 loss, the 12th in their last 17 contests.
That drew the ire of some, believing the Bulls - already being without Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic - needed all hands on deck to help the losing skid.
But Hoiberg defended what he called a "collective" decision to keep Rose on the sidelines. The Bulls were playing their fifth game in seven nights and Hoiberg didn't like the way Rose was moving in the lead-up to the game. After two days off, Rose is expected to play Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks, a team also mired in a slump having lost seven of 11 games.
"Last game, it was the right decision," Hoiberg said at Wednesday morning's shootaround at the Advocate Center. "We made the decision collectively to sit Derrick the other night and a lot of it was based on how he was moving around out there. So hopefully a couple days of rest will get him back playing well tonight (against the Atlanta Hawks) and after the All-Star break, 30 games, we’re going to need him for all those."
Rose is on pace to play in 71 games this regular season, which would be more than the 61 games he's appeared in the last three seasons combined.
He's also playing arguably the best basketball of his post-ACL tear career. Since Christmas Day, a stretch of 20 games, Rose has averaged 18.8 points on 45 percent shooting and 4.2 assists in 31.6 minutes per game. His points per game have gone up each month, from 13.3 in November to 20.8 points in four February contests. Rose also has averaged 35.1 minutes per game in February, the most of any month since his ACL tear. After a turbulent start to the season in which he dealt with blurred vision and ankle problems, he's been at his best at a time when the Bulls need him to be.
"You look at Derrick’s season, he had an unbelievable summer, got himself in as good a shape as he’s been in a long time, and such a freak injury that first day of training camp, and (so) he doesn’t have a training camp," Hoiberg said.
"Now he’s catching up, he’s working from behind and maybe he came back a little bit too early from that injury, we can all look back on that. But he’s playing the best he has all year and again the way we need him to play. Now it’s a matter of getting our other guys healthy. And if Derrick can play this style, this type of basketball with a healthy roster then good things can happen with this team."
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The Bulls' roster won't be completely healthy for weeks, perhaps months. Fred Hoiberg said Wednesday that Mirotic, who underwent an appendectomy and a hematoma removal, is still "in a lot of pain" and has lost about 15 pounds. The second-year forward had his stitches removed Wednesday which Hoiberg said will "get him a bit more upright," though there's still no timetable for his return.
Hoiberg breathed a sigh of relief that Butler, who told Rose he heard a pop in his knee, did not tear any ligaments. But the two-time All-Star missing three to four weeks with a knee strain will put more of a burden on Rose, who has totaled 39 points and 19 assists in the two games Butler has missed thus far.
The Bulls won't be able to afford many more off-days from Rose, as they sit just 1.5 games ahead of the ninth-seeded Hornets. Still, Hoiberg is confident Rose's soreness was more a product of the team playing five games in seven nights (in four different time zones) than any lingering or potential injuries.
"It’s just something where we need to continue to work," Hoiberg said. "(Rose) has had his best stretch of basketball of the season and we just need to continue that trend in getting him playing the right way."