Sometimes the NBA Gods are real assholes.
The game of the day on this late November Sunday afternoon was supposed to feature a point guard duel between the best point guard alive and the only player not named LeBron James to win the league’s MVP in the last five seasons. It was supposed to be a matchup of two teams that had a realistic chance to take possession of the Larry O’Brien Trophy at season’s end. Now it’s been marred by the devastating phrases “Non-contact knee injury” and “Meniscus tear.” The game of the day is still the Chicago Bulls visiting the Los Angeles Clippers, but there is an asterisk and a sad face sitting next to it.
As much of a tragedy as it is that the Bulls, representing 33 and a third repeating percent of the Eastern Conference teams who could find themselves in the NBA Finals, are for the moment removed from that group, the bigger tragedy is the prospect that Derrick Rose might be the next addition to the unfortunate list of great athletes whose careers were cut short for reasons they had no control over. It’s rare in sports for someone to possess a combination of athleticism, work ethic, skill and fearlessness on their respective fields of play; Rose is one of those guys. If Derrick Rose ends up an example of a career cut too short instead of a Hall of Famer, we, just like him, end up losing. As an NBA fan over everything else, I really hope Rose comes back healthy and better than ever, even if that’s to the detriment of some of my favorite players in the league.
The Bulls have to regroup and go into gritty, hard-nosed, lockdown defense mode without Rose in the picture. It’s a shift they’ve needed to make in the immediate past and they overachieved while doing so by just about anyone’s standards. Their first test is the Los Angeles Clippers, a high octane offensive power led by one of the early MVP favorites, Chris Paul. Minus Derrick Rose and also starting shooting guard Jimmy Butler, the Bulls will have to find a way to put up enough points to hang with Paul, Blake Griffin, and co. I’ve got the Clippers winning with relative ease, but how the Bulls come out and play knowing they are without their heartbeat for a considerable chunk of time is what I’ll be watching for.
The Pick: Clippers 102, Bulls 90
National TV: None
Local TV: CSNC (Chicago) and FSW2 (Los Angeles)
Time: 3:30 p.m. EST