The speculative saga of Derrick Rose's return took an odd twist Thursday when the former MVP's brother insisted the talent around the Chicago Bulls' injured star wasn't enough to win a championship.
That supporting cast has been more than good enough in Charlotte recently.
The Bulls won a pair of road games against the Bobcats last season by more than 30 points - both without Rose - and hope another trip to Time Warner Cable Arena can help them avoid a sixth loss in eight games.
Rose has been participating in five-on-five drills, leading some to believe he's on the verge of returning to the Bulls (31-23) after recovering from the ACL tear that knocked him out of last season's playoffs.
But Derrick's older brother, Reggie, wasn't pleased with the team's decision to stand pat at Thursday's trade deadline, telling ESPNChicago.com the lack of a move could be a big factor in Rose returning this season.
The elder Rose said "all roads to the championship lead through Miami," and the Heat seemed to illustrate the gap between the two Thursday night. With Kirk Hinrich sidelined and Chicago down to Nate Robinson and rookie Marquis Teague at the point, the Bulls committed a season-high 27 turnovers and shot 37.3 percent in an 86-67 home loss to Miami.
"Nobody played well," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "... (The Heat) are playing great. If you have a bad two or three minutes of play, you're going to crush yourself and that is what we did tonight."
The Bulls now have a trip to Charlotte sandwiched between games with last season's NBA finalists - they'll visit Oklahoma City on Sunday - and it would seem to be easy to overlook the league-worst Bobcats (13-41).
They already appeared to do that once, though, falling 91-81 at home to Charlotte on New Year's Eve before bouncing back with a 93-85 victory Jan. 28.
Chicago has been held under 70 points twice in the last three games, but perhaps it'll fare better in a place where it hit on all cylinders without Rose last season. The Bulls held the Bobcats to 64 points in a 31-point rout on Feb. 10, 2012, then rolled to a 100-68 victory behind 22 points from Richard Hamilton on April 18.
Chicago had the Eastern Conference's second-best road record last season and is an East-best 16-10 this season. The Bobcats, meanwhile, will be looking to avoid a 19th defeat in their last 21 home games after Wednesday's 105-99 loss to Detroit.
"Our biggest problem was defensively, we weren't able to get stops,' guard Kemba Walker said. "We missed a lot of rotations and weren't talking to each other. We weren't in sync tonight. We've got to get that back.'
Walker has scored 18 points apiece in this season's contests with the Bulls, but is shooting just 32.8 percent in five career meetings.
The Bobcats were unable to find a taker for former Bull Ben Gordon, who's set to make $13.2 million next season, prior to Thursday's deadline, instead making a smaller deal by getting Orlando's Josh McRoberts for Hakim Warrick. Gordon has been dreadful lately, averaging 7.1 points on 29.5 percent shooting over his last seven games.
It's unclear if the elbow problem that has kept Hinrich out for eight of the last nine games will sideline him Friday, but it's very easy to see that Chicago's offense runs much better with him. The Bulls are 13-3 since January when Hinrich plays, averaging 95.9 points, and 2-7 when he doesn't while scoring 88.1 per game.
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