CLEVELAND --- Derrick Rose wants to play against the Cavaliers and rookie point guard Kyrie Irving tonight. Rose always wants to play. But after missing two straight games and still wearing a walking boot, the Bulls' star sounded resigned to the fact that it may be a few more days before he returns to the court.
"It's a game-time decision," Rose said at Friday morning's shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena. "I definitely want to be out there today. Especially today. But you have to make the smartest decision not only for me but for my teammates."
Rose said his sprained left big toe feels much like the turf toe he sustained during his second NBA season.
"It's exactly what it is," Rose said when asked if it compared to his previous injury. "I wasn't able to bend my toe in like three years. When that happened it bent it and it aggravated it and I played on it sooner than I was suppose to play on it and it was real bad."
Rose said he feels "a little regret" about playing last weekend, which only re-aggravated the injury he initially suffered against the Timberwolves on Jan. 10. He also said while the swelling is down the injury remains painful.
If he's feeling able, he'll warm up tonight before deciding whether he'll play. While he claims the decision remains his, he sounded resigned to the fact that he may have to let his toe fully heal, which is especially difficult because tonight's game offers an opportunity to compete against the resurgent Cavaliers and rookie sensation Irving, who is averaging 17.7 point per game.
"I would love to play tonight, love to play," Rose said before complimenting Irving. "He's a great player. He's at a young age but you can tell he knows a lot about the game. He's a skilled player. [Cavaliers coach] Byron [Scott] has done a great job of letting him play through his mistakes and I know he won't do nothing but get better."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is also highly complimentary of Irving, who, like Rose, only played one collegiate season before being picked No. 1 overall in the draft.
"The thing that's probably stood out more than anything is the way he's shooting the ball and the poise in which he's playing," Thibodeau said of the former Duke standout. "He's stopping behind a screen, shooting the ball, pulling up for the threes, shooting 38 [percent beyond the three-point arc] is very impressive. He plays very, very hard. He has shown poise for a rookie."
Thibodeau calls the Cavaliers, who won fewer games (19) than the Bulls lost last season (20), one of the surprises in the Eastern Conference.
"You can make a case that they're the most improved team in the league," Thibodeau said. "They're 6-7 with a very tough early-season schedule. A lot of road games. They play extremely hard."