With a minute and a half remaining the first game of the Bulls, 76ers playoff series, Derrick Rose drove into the lane and landed badly on his left knee. After immediately stumbling to the ground, the city of Chicago collectively gasped as they watched the young superstar writhe on the floor.
His chronic injuries this season culminated with a torn ACL. Derrick Rose will be out for 6-9 months and the Chicago Bulls feel a huge blow to their title aspirations.
However, after having missed 27 games this year, the Bulls are confident that they can still make some noise in the Playoffs. John Lucas and CJ Watson stepped up in a major way this season, proving that the Bulls should still have hope. In other words, the Bulls have been preparing for this type of situation all season. Obviously, missing the reigning MVP and team leader, who scored 23 points and had 9 assists and 9 rebounds in the first game of the series, will have a serious affect on the way the Bulls preform throughout the rest of the playoffs.
So the question arises, now what? What does this injury mean for the Bulls title chances?
The pessimistic perspective: Every Bulls fan immediately felt that the season ended with Derrick’s ACL tear and that is absolutely a legitimate concern.
He leads the team in scoring and assists. He leads by example and makes everyone on the court with him play better. He is the face of Chicago sports and without him the Bulls are automatically a different team. He is the closer, and his will to win carries the Bulls through so much adversity. He single handedly can change the flow of any game and is a matchup nightmare for any opposition. It certainly seems unlikely that the Bulls can make any advancements in this years Playoffs without Derrick. Almost worst of all, his injury instantly makes the Heat the favorite to come out of the East without contest. The Bulls fans may have to take on the Cubs motto after this injury, and just say, “There’s always next year.”
However, there is some reason to still be excited for the rest of this season. The optimistic perspective: After sustaining injuries to his toe, back, ankle, and groin during the regular season, the Bulls have had some experience playing without Derrick Rose. He missed 27 games for that matter, during which time the Bulls went 18-9. The players came together and fought through the adversity and played very well against some good teams during Rose’s absence. CJ Watson stepped into the starting role and averaged 11.3 points per game and 4.3 assists in his 25 starts this season while John Lucas averaged 16.5 points per game in his two starts and 7.1 in his 47 appearances off the bench. Here is a chart that shows some of the Bulls stats with and without Derrick Rose during this season.
|With Rose||Without Rose|
While the Bulls clearly are better with their MVP, the numbers are still impressive without him. The argument can be made that teams were not expecting John Lucas or CJ Watson to step up and play well during the regular season, but during the postseason they will not overlook the duo. However, I still think that without Derrick, the Bulls are much more confusing to opponents. Consider the Pacers and the 76ers. Both teams are very much all around solid teams that rely on playing together as opposed to one superior player. The way I see it, the Bulls are still a better version of those two teams without Derrick Rose. The Bulls are still the best rebounding team in the league and are actually a better defensive team without Rose. I think that the Bulls will come together and play as a cohesive unit and ultimately use this injury as motivation. The injury automatically gives the Bulls an underdog title, a title under which they play much better.
I think the Bulls still have some reason to think they will make it to the Finals this year. While improbable, its not impossible. Let’s not forget that the Bulls beat the Heat twice during the regular season once without Derrick Rose altogether, and once in a miserable performance in which Derrick scored a measly two points. Without question, it will be much more difficult but the Bulls are committed, disciplined and focused enough and with nothing to lose, they can certainly continue on in the Playoffs.