- Associated Press - Sunday, April 29, 2012

DEERFIELD, ILL. (AP) - Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman backed coach Tom Thibodeau on Sunday, saying he had no problem with the decision to stick with Derrick Rose late in the playoff opener against the Philadelphia 76ers.

“There’s absolutely no issue there,” Forman said.

There is, however, a big hole in the lineup after the Bulls lost their point guard to a season-ending injury.

The league’s reigning MVP, Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee with about 1:20 left in Saturday’s 103-91 victory _ a huge blow for a team eyeing its first championship since the Michael Jordan era.

Now, the Bulls will try to get by without their superstar, beginning Tuesday with Game 2 in Chicago, and there’s no guarantee Rose will be ready for the start of next season. Rose is facing surgery at some point after the swelling goes down and he regains full range of motion, but ultimately, Forman expects a full recovery.

“We’re very optimistic that he’ll come back at 100 percent, 110 percent,” he said.

For now, the Bulls are staring at a huge task after watching their worst nightmare unfold toward the end of what was an impressive win. Rose seemed to rediscover his dominant form with 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, but the good vibe came screeching to a halt when he crumbled to the floor with a 12-point lead.

Rose came to a jump stop in the lane with the 76ers’ Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen rotating toward him, and his leg buckled. He still went up again and passed to Carlos Boozer in midair before crashing to the court, sending a chill through the arena while firing up the debate around Chicago.

Why was he still in the game?

Rose had checked back in with just under eight minutes left and the lead reached 20 shortly after that. But with the Sixers making a push, Thibodeau decided to stick with his star and left himself open to second-guessing.

To that, he said, bring it on. He was standing by his decision on Sunday.

“Looking back, I don’t think there was a problem,” said Thibodeau, who could be in line for his second straight Coach of the Year award. “It was a 12-point game with a minute-and-a half to go.”

Forman agreed.

“Again, to us, it was absolutely no issue at all,” he said.

That Thibodeau kept his foot on the pedal was hardly a surprise. After all, he’s been going mostly full throttle ever since he was hired two years ago.

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