Derrick Rose’s Injury and Its Effect on the Bulls:
There have been a few disappointments this season. From the struggling New York Knicks, to the slow-starting Brooklyn Nets, to the never-ending injuries, there have been plenty of letdowns for NBA fans. But the most disappointing story centers around Derrick Rose’s latest knee injury, which ended his 2013-14 season, and forced the Chicago Bulls to seek a new path to contention.
On April 28, 2012, Rose tore his ACL in his left knee in a playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s a day that Bulls fans look back on with despair. Adding to the pain of losing their franchise player to major injury was the fact that Rose probably should have been resting on the bench since the Bulls had a 12-point lead with roughly a minute and a half left in the game at the time of his injury.
On May 12, 2012, Rose underwent surgery to repair the torn ACL. With ACL tears, a typical recovery time for NBA athletes is commonly between nine months to a year.
By January 2013, reports out of Chicago were that Rose was participating in full contact basketball activities. The Bulls made it clear that Rose’s return date would not be determined until team doctors had cleared him and Rose was mentally ready. The Bulls wanted Rose to come back once he was 100 percent healthy, and not a second sooner. However, on February 13, for the first time, Rose hinted that he may miss the entire season to ensure that he could make a full recovery. Daily speculation ensued as to when Rose would return. Some fans grew angry, believing that Rose was stalling his return and lacked commitment to the team.
By early March it was being reported that doctors had cleared Rose to play, indicating that the young point guard had made a full recovery. Despite Rose participating in practices without restrictions, the former MVP insisted he was not mentally prepared to return. Derrick’s brother, Reggie Rose, made the situation worse when he publicly stated that the Bulls’ decision to not make any significant deals at the trade deadline would play a role in whether Derrick would return for the remainder of the 2012-13 season. Criticism from fans and the media persisted throughout the remainder of the season.
Without Rose, the Bulls advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals where they lost to the Miami HEAT. Rose never made his anticipated return and missed the entire season. Even if Rose had been able to play, the Bulls still would have been short-handed as they were missing Luol Deng, and the HEAT would have likely still won the series. Still, for Bulls fans, constant reports of a potential return was the dominant storyline of the season.
Fast forward to October 5, 2013, when Derrick Rose made his return to action against the Indiana Pacers in a preseason game. After waiting 525 days since Rose tore his ACL, Bulls fans would get to watch their franchise player on the court once again. Rose was rusty, putting up 13 points in 20 minutes of playing time. It did not matter though; Rose was healthy and all NBA fans had reason to smile.
On October 16, after scoring 22 points in his first game back in Chicago, Rose said he thought he was even more “explosive” than before his injury, and that he had increased his vertical jump by five inches. Browse YouTube clips of Rose’s best dunks before his injury, and you can see why the thought of him adding five inches to his vertical was a scary thought for the rest of the NBA. Greg Oden, Joel Anthony and Goran Dragic, all past victims of vicious Rose dunks, would certainly agree.
The hype surrounding Rose’s return reached its apex on October 31, when he hit a game-winning floater to beat the Knicks, 82-81, in just the second game of the regular season. Rose was not efficient in that game, going 7-23 from the floor and turning the ball over four times. But it didn’t matter. Rose did what superstars are supposed to do in the NBA, which is to take, and make, the biggest shots in the biggest moments.
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Unfortunately it would not be long before disaster would strike again. After playing in only 11 games, Rose tore his meniscus in his right knee while playing against the Portland Trail Blazers on November 22. After undergoing surgery, the Bulls announced that Rose would miss the rest of the season.
In a season in which point guards have been plagued by injuries (Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar, Kemba Walker, Eric Bledsoe, etc.), Rose’s latest injury cuts the deepest. Rose’s injury, compounded by the time he has missed, has changed the course of the franchise. Every point guard listed will return from injury, or already has, and their franchise will continue down the same path it was already on. The Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder will continue to compete for a championship, and teams like the Phoenix Suns will continue to build around young talent with an eye toward the future. But the Bulls are not the Suns, and this was not supposed to be a rebuilding year for them. Coming into this season, the Bulls were thought to be one of three teams in the East that would compete for the championship, along with the HEAT and Pacers. Instead, the Bulls are now grouped with every other team in the East looking up at the top two teams.
This is especially problematic because in today’s NBA, under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, it is widely believed that if you are not a championship contender, then you should bottom out in hopes of landing a young star in the NBA lottery. Good luck convincing head coach Tom Thibodeau or any of the veterans on the team, such as Joakim Noah, that they should be tanking.
This is, in part, where rumors of a disconnect between Thibodeau and Chicago executives stem from. Under Thibodeau’s defensive principles, the Bulls have the second best defensive rating in the league. But the recent trade of Luol Deng suggests that Chicago’s front office has conceded this season in favor of future flexibility. By trading Deng for Andrew Bynum and then waiving him, the Bulls saved roughly $20 million. But no one can argue that trading Deng for purely financial savings makes the Bulls a better team now. Beyond trading Deng, rumors persist that the Bulls will amnesty veteran Carlos Boozer, who is set to make $16.8 million next season.
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If Chicago does amnesty Boozer, it will leave the Bulls with a roster featuring Rose, Noah, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy Jr., promising rookie Tony Snell and Jimmy Butler, a solid foundation to build around. Interestingly, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that, “Chicago is much more in play for [Carmelo Anthony] than L.A.” Whether through a trade this season or by signing Anthony over the summer, a pairing of Anthony and a healthy Rose would most likely put Chicago back into contention. This is especially true when you consider that Anthony will add much needed offense, while having to commit himself to a proven team defense under the demanding, yet effective Thibodeau.
Though the Bulls are currently the fifth seed in the East with a 22-21 record, it is very unlikely that they can get past the Pacers and the HEAT. Even if Chicago somehow made it to the Finals without Rose and Deng, they would likely have to defeat the Thunder or Spurs in a seven-game series, which is no easy task. It is unfortunate, but without Rose, this is a lost season in terms of competing for a championship.
While the Bulls have a few paths to quickly reload the team, it is undeniable that Chicago fans, and basketball fans in general, have missed Rose’s aggressive style of play that earned him NBA MVP honors at the age of 22. Moreover, it is disappointing to miss out on two seasons of Rose in his athletic prime, and two seasons in which Chicago could have competed for championships.
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Don’t count out Rose yet though. Players who have suffered ACL injuries have recently returned with greater success rates than ever before, and while a meniscus tear is unfortunate, it is not a career ending injury. Had Rose undergone another operation, such as a microfracture, there would be significant doubts as to Rose’s long-term prognosis. Fortunately, this is not the case for Rose. But Bulls’ fans will have to keep waiting for Rose’s return. The Bulls, and the NBA, will be much better when he does.
– Jesse Blancarte