ORLANDO, Fla -- The Bulls worst nightmare came true on Thursday night.
Not only did they get crushed, as expected, by the Magic 111-82 -- they also lost Derrick Rose for the night, and maybe for longer after Dwight Howard body checked him late in the first quarter for the second time in just over a month. Rose has a sprained wrist and is now scheduled for an MRI in Miami on Friday. The play literally added injury to insult considering the Bulls were already playing without Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis) and Luol Deng (strained calf).
The one player they could least afford to lose was lost.
"We're a different team than what we were," a frustrated Vinny Del Negro said after the game. "From our injuries, to the trade, to everything involved, we're without a lot of our guys. I thought the guys in the second half battled. There's no excuses, it is what it is."
At this point though, even Del Negro knows that the Bulls are in serious jeopardy of sliding completely out of the playoff chase considering they've lost six in a row and face a hellacious uphill climb if they have to play any amount of time without Rose, Noah and Deng.
"We've got to find a way to get healthy and weather the storm like I talked about, but there's no question we are a battered bunch right now,” the Bulls coach said. “We're trying to keep [our] confidence up, trying to get a look at a few people. It's very frustrating, but you've got to keep your head up, you've got to keep fighting and hopefully Derrick will be all right and we will be all right."
Whether Rose is able to return Friday night or not though, it's clear that the morale is starting to fade in the Bulls locker room.
"Kind of in a way," rookie Taj Gibson admitted. "But, any time you lose and you have a couple games of tough playing and still come out with an L, guys are going to be down. But it's up to the guys to just pick it up. This is the pros. Nobody's going to feel sorry for you. You just have to keep playing and keep fighting."
But, can the Bulls realistically win with a lineup that is missing their three best players?
"It's going to be tough," Gibson said. "But, it's the pros. Everybody was drafted for a reason. And we have guys that can step up. We have Kirk Hinrich, we have Brad Miller, we have James [Johnson]. We have a bunch of guys that can step up. It's just about guys getting confidence. And being willing to play."
No matter how things shake out with the injuries though, that is going to be tough.
"With the injuries and everything involved, we're taking it on the chin right now,” Del Negro. “But we got to stay together and just keep battling. Hopefully, we can get some kind of cohesive foundation built with the guys once they come back and get back to the level we were playing at, which won't be easy. That's going to take some time and injuries will have a lot to dictate with that."
Yes they will.