The Bulls obliterated the undermanned New Jersey Nets 108-87 on Monday at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. in a second-consecutive virtually wire-to-wire blowout on the road.
They didn't even need Derrick Rose to do it. But therein lies the problem for the otherwise ever-improving Bulls: Rose played less than 11 minutes and sat out the second half because of back spasms.
Normally that's just a typical malady affecting Rose during an NBA season, but this isn't a normal season. Rose has been playing through tightness in his back since at least the last five games and ''probably even before that,'' Rose himself acknowledged after the game. And after having played 27 games in the first 44 days of the season, there's no telling what effect the rigors of the post-lockout schedule will have on Rose's ailing back.
''Just back spasms. Nothing to worry about,'' Rose said after the game.
Rose has been worked on by the training staff during recent games. But the situation appears to be getting worse. He missed part of the second quarter against the Bucks while getting treatment near the Bulls bench. This time he missed the entire second half.
''Tonight was pretty tough,'' he acknowledged. ''It was tight the whole game. It's just something where I've got to get a massage and stretched right away and hopefully it'll be gone.''
The reigning league MVP said he is no more worried about this back issue than any others he's had in his career. He even chuckled lightly when it was implied that he might have to miss a game or more. But he also qualified his own confidence that it won't be a problem.
''No,'' he said. ''For right now, I I'll be playing next game. It's nothing like I'm going to be sitting out. I always want to think positive and keep things going that way.''
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau also is ''hopeful'' Rose's back problems won't be a bigger issue. But the way this season has gone you never know. While Rose was sitting out in Jersey, Carmelo Anthony was sitting out most of the New York Knicks' victory over the Utah Jazz with a strained right groin -- his fourth injury of the season. And Chauncey Billups missed the final six minutes of regulation and overtime against the Orlando Magic with a possible left Achilles injury.
''You're always concerned -- certainly with him,'' Thibodeau said. ''But no moreso than every other player, too. Health is a big concern. We're hopeful. He's done a great job of taking care of himself this year, doing a lot of extra conditioning. Lifting, rehab, massage, rest. We're hopeful that this is a very short-term thing.''