They found it in Reno, where it only took a two-game audition in the D-League for veteran guard Mike James to earn an NBA recall.
The Bulls saw enough from James in his debut this week with the Erie BayHawks at the D-League Showcase to make him the 14th call-up of the young season from the NBA's official minor league.
James had one shot Wednesday night in a minute of play.
While Rose said his injury was turf toe, which he also suffered earlier in his career, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said it was a sprain.
"It's really smart to monitor (the injury), especially with so many games coming up," Bulls forward Luol Deng told reporters when discussing why Rose didn't play Wednesday.
John Lucas III started in Rose's place and had 25 points in 48 minutes of play.
"(I've) just go out there and go hard," Lucas said. "Give everything I got. If I've got to play 48, I've got to play 48. It's something that you train for your whole entire life, conditioning-wise. Our strength and conditioning coach has prepared us to play long minutes and not come out the game. That part I'm not worried about."
After the game, Joakim Noah underwent X-rays on his thumb.
"I got X-rays and they were negative," he said. "It doesn't feel great, but I think I'll be all right."
Rose said after aggravating his toe in Tuesday's win over the Minnesota Timberwolves that he didn't expect to miss a game. Rose is wearing a walking boot and the team says his status is day to day.
Thibodeau said Wednesday that holding Rose out was a cautionary move.
"We're not going to take any chances," Thibodeau said. "The way he plays, most guys, particularly your big guys, they're going to get banged up. We're not going to risk injury if a guy can do further damage, we're not taking that chance. But if a guy's nicked up, he's going to play. There's a difference between hurting and being injured. Derrick's a tough guy, he knows how to handle things and we just felt like in this situation tonight, the best thing is for him not to play and then we'll address it tomorrow and see how he's feeling. We're not going to take a chance on him having further injury. We're not going to do that."
Rose collided with Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver late in the first quarter, but he remained in Tuesday's game. He was taken back to the locker room and had the toe taped by the Bulls' medical staff.
"(Tolliver) fell on the back of my foot, pushed my toes down," Rose said. "I can't bend my big toe at all so it hurt pretty bad."
The Bulls were concerned enough that they sent general manager Gar Forman to the D-League Showcase.
James, 36, spent last season in China and Turkey before deciding earlier this month to submit his name into the D-League's player pool, in hopes of convincing NBA executives that he can still play at the highest level.
He's the first player from the largest group of NBA veterans in D-League history to successfully play his way back to the NBA through a D-League stint. Other familiar names in Reno this week include Ricky Davis, Damon Jones, Greg Ostertag and Antoine Walker.
James had 23 points, five rebounds and five assists in 42 minutes Monday in his first game with Erie in a victory over the Walker-led Idaho Stampede.
James struggled Tuesday in a loss to the Austin Toros -- managing just 6 points against 5 turnovers in 25 minutes. But he impressed executives and scouts in Reno with his conditioning and readiness to take on an immediate load of heavy playing time with the BayHawks, despite not having played competitively in the NBA since 2009-10.
A well-traveled veteran, James has averaged 10.5 points and 3.6 assists per game, in nine NBA seasons for nine different teams. He averaged 20.3 points and 5.8 assists per game for Toronto in 2005-06.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com contributed to this story.