CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah was speechless.
He knew the questions were coming. He knew what had happened. He just wasn't sure what he wanted to come out of his mouth.
Still in shock with what had just happened to Derrick Rose, Noah sat in front of his locker with the same dazed look that all of his teammates had.
"He's more than just a basketball player to me," Noah said, minutes after watching his friend and teammate crumple to the ground as his knee gave out. "I consider Derrick like a little brother and to see him hurting is never good. But I know he's a warrior and I know he's going to get back as soon as he can."
In almost three years on the Bulls' beat, this was, understandably, the most disconsolate locker room I've ever seen. Players knew how hard Rose had worked to get back in the lineup. After he'd missed 27 games already this season, they knew how badly he wanted to stay on the floor. Now they know they'll have to play without him for a long time. In talking and listening to them, it was if they knew bad news was coming before word of the torn ACL actually became official.
"I was like, 'Oh, here we go again,'" Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "It's been up and down all year long. And it sucks because he was just getting back. He was looking good, looking good in practice [Friday] and he had such a good game, defensively and offensively. It's tough to lose your leader."
Some of Rose's teammates had already started praying for him after the game, but the tension and sadness in the locker room were palpable. Just like fans, they feared the worst. And now the worst has become official.
"It's tough," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "It seems like he just can't catch a break. We're all praying for him, hoping it's not that bad. It seemed pretty bad, but we're hoping for the best in this situation. I just feel for him, man. He really can't catch a break this season."
The agony for the Bulls is that the injury overshadowed a great Game 1 performance. The team played very well throughout most of the day, but once Rose went down nothing else mattered. Misery and disbelief emanated from all corners. The Bulls knew there was nothing they could do to help their fallen leader. Now they must find a way to cope without him.