PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Chicago Bulls' night of misery began about an hour before their 105-87 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers even started on Friday night. After a slow bus ride to the Moda Center full of traffic and cold rain, the Bulls' players and coaches filed into the quiet visitor's locker room. As players began heading out to the court, one main sound was audible above the din of the noises that accompany a team in the midst of a long two-week, coast-to-coast trip.
It was the sound coming from Derrick Rose's leg compression machine.
Almost a year to the day Rose tore the medial meniscus in his right knee in the same building, Rose laid on the ground with both of his legs in compression sleeves, quietly watching videos on his cellphone. He didn't play Friday night because of ongoing left hamstring issues, but the reminders of what had occurred a year before were fresh in everyone's memory.
Every time the Bulls come to Portland lately it seems as if something bad happens. Friday night's game was just the latest example of that. Damian Lillard dominated a depleted Bulls' squad that was also playing without Pau Gasol (strained left calf) and Kirk Hinrich (bruised ribs). The Bulls came into the game having lost eight of their last 10 games in Portland, giving up an average of 101.5 points in each contest according to ESPN Stats & Information. After the Trail Blazers' latest triumph, the Bulls have now lost seven straight games here.
Aside from the loss, the bigger issue on this night for the Bulls was the fact they lost Taj Gibson to a sprained left ankle that could keep him out a little while. Gibson had to be helped off the court by his teammates in a scene similar to the one Rose endured last season. While Gibson's ankle injury isn't nearly as serious as Rose's knee injury was, it had to feel like déjà vu for Bulls' personnel to see Gibson head to the locker room on crutches and in a walking boot after the game. A year earlier, it was Rose who stood on crutches in the back of the visitor's locker room staring into a mirror and wondering about his own future.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau didn't want to hear about the parallel storylines after the game, believing the injuries Rose and Gibson sustained could have happened anywhere.
"I don't get caught up in that stuff," he said. "Injuries are part of the game. If a guy gets hurt, he gets hurt. But it's not the building, it's not any of that stuff. Injuries are part of the game so you just deal with them."
His players understand that, but they didn't feel the same way about the bad mojo that seems to come their way every time they play in Portland.
"F--- this place," one player muttered in the locker room as he peeled off his jersey.
As much as Thibodeau may not want to admit, the injury to Gibson only reinforced the bad feelings the players have when they walk into this building after seeing what happened to Rose a year ago.
"This is the NBA," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "It sucks that guys get hurt. But you just got to keep going forward, the games keep coming, and nobody feels sorry for you, so you just got to keep going and we just got to get better and hopefully Taj gets better soon."
In a strange twist, when Gibson hobbled his way back to the locker room after injuring his ankle in the third quarter, one of the first people he saw was Rose, who had been sitting in the locker room during the game. After dealing with all the ups and downs of another year of rehab on his knee, Rose's message to Gibson was clear as they talked in the same building in which the former MVP's season ended.
"He was just saying to me, 'It's that same ankle that's been bothering you.' " Gibson said of his talk with Rose. "I was like, 'Yes.' He said, 'You just got to be patient. You really got to get on top of that. It's a long year. You can't sprint to the finish line already. You got a long fight, you just got to be smart and get back fully healthy.' "
After another meltdown against the Trail Blazers, that sounds like sage advice. Rose understands Gibson's pain better than anyone -- and that's why it should come as little surprise that Rose was the first player to exit the locker room late Friday night. He wanted to get out of the building as quickly as possible.
So did the Bulls.