- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Derrick Rose's backups look forward to the challenge of replacing the injured MVP beginning Tuesday with Game 2 of the Chicago Bulls' first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers.
"We love challenges," backup point guard John Lucas III said Tuesday. "We've been a challenge all season. Everybody's been doubting us when [Rose] went down the first time, saying that we wasn't going to have a good season. We love challenges. We like proving people wrong. And it makes us become better basketball players because we have a challenge ahead of us that people think we can't fulfill."
C.J. Watson, now the starter at point guard in place of Rose, whose season ended when he tore the ACL in his left knee in Game 1 on Saturday, said the start of Game 2 will be critical.
"It's definitely critical for both teams," Watson said. "More so them because we lost our star player and we have a lot of passion and intensity to play and win the game for him."
That's the approach Lucas III is taking as well. He said he was happy to see Rose at the Berto Center Monday and is hopeful that his team will be able to rally in Rose's absence.
"Derrick reached out to everybody," Lucas said. "Said let's get it going, let's bring that ring back to Chicago and we'll go from there ... He's our captain and that has not changed. He's always with me, talking to me [about] what I need to do better, what I can do better. When you have a leader like that who gets everybody motivated, it's always a plus."
Thibodeau is not certain if Rose will be on the bench for Game 2, but wants his team to be around Rose as much as they can.
"We're leaving it up to him," Thibodeau said. "As soon as he's ready to be around, obviously we want him to be here. So it was great to see him [Monday], but he's doing fine."
Lucas believes that Rose will become another assistant coach while he is rehabbing his injury which is expected to take six to nine months.
"Yeah, because he knows the game," Lucas said. "Especially at a young age, he really knows the game. He's polished He's been through these situations before, playoff situations. Last year we got to the Eastern Conference championship and we're looking forward to getting back there now. With him being on the bench, not even being on the bench just being around the team, giving us stuff that he sees, because it's different when you're playing and [then] you're sitting down. You see the game a little differently than you are when you're playing."
Thibodeau wants his team to focus on their core principles and block out everything else.
"It's everyone's biggest challenge because it's the next game," he said. "That never changes. We don't have to adjust -- our team, everybody. It comes down to everybody has to do their job. If we're relying on outside things and what other people say ... what other people say really doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what we think. And so if we focus in on everybody doing their job, we'll be fine."
Thibodeau takes solace in the fact that the Bulls have plenty of experience without Rose.
"I think the one advantage we have is we've already played with this group," said Thibodeau, whose Bulls are 18-9 without Rose. "The important thing is we got to play well. Because you've done it before doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to be successful again, but I think experience does help and we have to go out there and execute."
1dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
1dJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info