Rose's absence once again the story

CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose was hoping to send a message to his hometown fans and the entire NBA on Friday night.

I'm back.

You know, again.

Turned out the message was more of a reassurance.

"Don't worry," Rose said with a laugh. "It's just an ankle sprain."

Exhale everyone.

Rose, he of two surgically repaired knees and two lost seasons, sat out the fourth quarter and all of overtime with a left-ankle sprain as the Bulls blew a late lead and lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers 114-108 in their home opener. A league source told ESPN.com's Nick Friedell that Rose also sprained his right ankle during the second half, but neither injury is believed to be serious.

The big story after the game wasn't LeBron James dropping 36 or Cavs big man Tristan Thompson's dominating the Bulls bigs on the offensive glass. It wasn't new Bull Pau Gasol blocking six shots on one end and missing 12 of 18 on the other.

It was Rose, missing in action again.

Skeptics and pessimists were saying, "I told you so" as the rest of Chicago murmured, rolled their eyes and had a good cry.

Truth be told, no one was quite sure why Rose never returned to the game until it was obvious he wasn't coming back.

"I really thought we were going to have him in the fourth," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "I didn't know he hurt his ankle that bad."

No one did. We just figured he was sitting out because of his minutes restriction. Then, he left the bench with about six minutes left in the fourth.

Gibson hurt his ankle early in the fourth quarter, and he went to the training room. After walking it off, Gibson returned to the floor and knew something was wrong by the look on Rose's face.

"When I came back to the bench, something wasn't right with [Rose's] demeanor," Gibson said. "So I asked him and he was like, 'My ankle isn't right.' I was like, 'Damn.'"

Backup point guard Kirk Hinrich -- who started in James' first pro game at the United Center back in 2003 -- nearly saved the day by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Bulls a 96-91 lead with 1:15 left in the fourth. But a Kyrie Irving three-point play, on a long continuation call, tied it at 98-98 with 27.9 seconds left.

Hinrich, who scored 10 points in the fourth, air-balled a last-second 3 attempt.

Cleveland, led by James, hit 10 of 11 free throws in overtime as the Cavs pulled away.

"It was hard, very hard," to watch the end of the game, Rose said. "Especially this game against a team like that."

Rose hurt his left ankle late in the second quarter and the crowd blanched as Rose hobbled to the bench toward new head trainer Jeff Tanaka. Rose never sat down and stayed on the floor, hitting a big 3 shortly after his injury. Rose scored 18 on 7-for-12 shooting in the first half.

He started the third quarter and played 9 minutes, 22 seconds but never returned for his fourth-quarter shift.

"I played my minutes in the third, and I saw it kind of limited me a little bit shooting jump shots and I wasn't able to get the bounce that I wanted," Rose said. "That's when I told 'T-nak.'"

Tanaka reports to director of sports performance Jennifer Swanson, and everyone reports to Bulls general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson. After the past few years, the watchwords for the Bulls stars are, "Better safe than sorry."

The good news is that before the initial left ankle injury, Rose was playing his old game, driving, shooting and hitting floaters. He was as electric as injured guard Jimmy Butler's blue suit.

But in the third quarter, he went 1-for-4 from the field and missed three 3-point attempts. He wasn't driving or attacking.

"I was playing all right, I was playing all right, man," Rose said. "Guys are testing me. In a perfect world, you want everything to be smooth, but random things like this are going to happen. I just got to get used to it, try to stay positive."

Rose said there was no swelling and he considered the injury minor. He got X-rays, though he wasn't sure the prognosis, and said he would try to play Saturday in Minnesota.

"I'm walking around, so everyone can breathe," he said. "Trust me."

Start with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who was seething after the game, just one of 82, as he likes to say.

Asked about Rose's injury, Thibodeau said he never asked the trainers what happened, offering only, "It was something with the ankle."

Asked to assess Rose's first half, and Thibodeau started in on rebounding and playing with an edge.

Aside from his team getting worked on the boards, 52-42 -- Thompson had 12 offensive boards to the Bulls' 11 -- Thibodeau was especially annoyed about the minutes restrictions on several of his players, including Joakim Noah and Gasol, not to mention Rose, who only played 25:18.

"We got restrictions on guys," Thibodeau groused.

Thanks to a hefty lead, Rose and Noah each played around 20 minutes in the Bulls' 104-80 season-opening win.

In this game, Noah played 37:20, a few minutes more than planned, thanks to 2:24 in overtime, and Gasol logged 36:31. These restrictions led to some funky rotations and size advantages down low for Cleveland.

Sure, it's only the second game of the season. Try telling Thibodeau that. How he's going to handle this plan is a mystery. Maybe he should try meditating.

"When you're playing these guys, the one thing is they're going to keep their stars on the floor," Thibodeau said. "So, you're concerned about the matchups. The only reason Kyrie wasn't out there for 40 minutes was because of his foul trouble. So you're taking your guys out, those matchups are going to hurt. We got to do better. We got to figure it out."

Between Rose's penchant for trouble, Noah's knee injury and Thibodeau's rage against the machine, get ready for one stressful season.

Let's see who survives it.