A total freak injury. Less than two minutes left in the game. The reigning MVP in mid-air, looking like a bird shot through the wing. A hero on the floor. A lump in every Bulls fan's throat.
Coach Thibodeau says the Rose injury isn't a "death sentence." Sure, Coach, but you have to admit your chances were better with #1 on the court.
In reality, the Bulls have been prepping for this moment for most of the year. Rose missed 27 of 66 games. And the team showed a knack for finding a new hero every night.
But this is the playoffs, where the will to win can overpower talent, money and ego. Think of Dennis Rodman throwing his body into the crowd to rescue a loose ball. Think of Michael playing through the flu. Those guys wanted it enough to put their bodies through hell.
An ACL tear is worse than hell. You can't play on it at all. But the rest of the Bulls have a chance to make history. Everyone's written them off. But there are several factors working in their favor.
1) Home court. If, God forbid, every series gets dragged out, home cooking could be the remedy.
2) The East is weak. Aside from the Heat, every team has glaring weaknesses. And even the Heat have a tendency toward mental breakdowns. A scrappy team willing to play physical could get in their heads.
3) If, by some miracle, the Bulls do make it to the NBA Finals, success would depend on the matchup. But if this team plays as a unit, it can probably beat any squad in the league. Question is, can they beat them in four out of seven games?
4) Rip Hamilton. He was brought in to provide leadership. This is a guy who's been through fire and come out the other side. His ring speaks louder than any words in the huddle.
Let's get real. The Bulls suffered a serious, serious loss when Rose hit the floor. But they're more equipped to deal with it this year than previous seasons. Cross your fingers and hope for a few miracles. We'll need 'em.