Eerie feeling revisits Bulls locker room

November, 23, 2013
11/23/13
2:19
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Derrick Rose stood in front of a mirror at the back of the visitor's locker room in the Moda Center late Friday night with crutches underneath each shoulder and heavy thoughts on his mind.

As he prepared to hobble his way back to his locker with an injured right knee, it wasn't hard to read the look on his face.

How could this be happening again?

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Steve Dykes/USA TODAY SportsDerrick Rose left Portland on Friday with his future again uncertain. "I don't want to speculate on what it is or what it might be, other than my concern for him," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

The entire scene inside the Chicago Bulls' solemn locker room felt eerily similar to that of April 28, 2012.

That was the day Rose tore the ACL in his left knee at the end of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Players said all the right things then -- they hoped the MRI results on Rose's knee came back negative -- but they knew in their hearts that something bad had happened. They saw the pained look on Rose's face and they could tell he was hurting badly. Some players were on the verge of tears in what was as sad a locker-room scene as one will see.

That's why it was like stepping into a time warp Friday night.

As was the case in April 2012, Rose hurt himself Friday on a non-contact play. He had to be helped to the locker room by assistant trainer Jeff Tanaka on one side of him, with Bulls' security chief Eric Buck on the other. Both men were there with Rose when had to be helped off the United Center court, with Tanaka serving as a human crutch then, too.

While the locker room in Portland itself was not as outright depressed as it was on that fateful day in April 2012, it was quiet. Players dressed without speaking while holding out hope that Rose would be all right. Some players just sat in their chairs shaking their heads in disbelief. Kirk Hinrich made a prayer sign and put his arms up to the sky before leaving. Joakim Noah sat in his chair looking as if he had just awakened from a bad dream.

The problem for the Bulls is that this is a reality once again.

They know that no matter what the MRI results show Saturday, there's a good chance Rose will probably be out for a while -- again. That's why Tom Thibodeau wore a look of concern as he spoke to reporters.

The baritonal coach was pale and sounded sad. He's not sure what the future holds for his team, but he hates that his 25 year-old star had to spend Friday night worrying whether he was going to have another career-altering injury.

"I don't want to speculate on what it is or what it might be, other than my concern for him," Thibodeau said. "I know how much work he's put into his rehab, the type of person he is, the type of player he is. So concern for that; I feel for him because of all the things he does mean to our team."

Thibodeau knows that for one night games can wait.

After watching Rose battle his way back from reconstructive left-knee surgery for the last year and a half, the overriding sentiment within the organization on this night was sadness.

The Bulls were having a hard time processing that this doomsday scenario could happen again. Unhappily for them, they have had experience dealing with this type of situation before.

Their friend was hurting again, and they knew what it meant. Now, like before, they are left to wait and hope that news comes back differently this time.

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5