Thibodeau made the right call

April 29, 2012|Matt Lindner, For RedEye

Calm down, everyone. The Bulls' season isn't over just because Derrick Rose's is.

Until eternity, "The Decision" in Chicago will no longer involve LeBron James and ESPN but rather Tom Thibodeau's move to leave Rose in a game seemingly already decided. It's a decision that could wind up costing the Bulls a seventh title.

It was also—unquestionably—the right call, despite what armchair coaches have spent the weekend saying.

With 1:22 left and the Bulls up 12, the best player to wear the red and black since Michael Jordan drove to the hoop like he's done thousands of times. Only this time, instead of making our jaws drop with a move to the hoop, he did it by collapsing to a heap on the court. All the air was sucked out of the Windy City as the anguished expression on Rose's face was duplicated in bars and living rooms throughout Chicago.

It didn't look good. It wasn't good. Two hours later, the Bulls' PR department would issue a press release confirming fans' greatest fears. Torn ACL. Superman's cape is being mothballed for the rest of the season.

Suddenly, the digital pitchforks came out. People wanting—demanding—to know why Thibs would leave Rose in a game that was all but won.

Here's the thing: It wasn't won. And if you've paid any attention to Thibodeau, you know he doesn't care about numbers. Hell, he doesn't care about much else in his life other than winning.

In his postgame comments Saturday, Thibodeau told the press—and by extension, the fans: "I don't work backward like you guys do. The score was going the other way."

In this case, Philly was chipping away at a lead that, while it appeared insurmountable, could have evaporated in an instant. When the score is "going the other way" in the playoffs, you leave your best guys in the game. Plain and simple.

Rose's injury was a freak accident. He wasn't touched, wasn't doing anything he wasn't supposed to be doing. He was driving to the hoop. That's it. There's nothing anyone could have done to prevent this. Teams don't become champions with a point guard clad in bubble wrap.

The Bulls went 18-9 without Rose. If they can find a way to go 15-12 without him the rest of the way—and it's entirely possible given the way John Lucas III stepped up in Rose's absence— a seventh banner will be raised and everyone calling for Thibodeau's head will happily forgive him.

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.

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