Now that all the candlelit vigils have dulled to a flicker, Bulls fans have had about 24 hours to digest the season-ending injury suffered by Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. It’s been a sea of emotions — anger, sadness, disbelief, distrust, pessimism, all culminating to the thought that, “Our postseason run is already over. We’re not going to win anything. The season is lost.”
In many regards, that statement is true. Rose’s absence makes the Bulls run towards a seventh championship much more difficult, especially considering how a majority of the Eastern conference playoff teams played to end the season. Teams now can shift their focus from Rose’s dominance of the ball on offense to a cache of streaky performers. While Carlos Boozer, Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, and even bench contributors John Lucas III and Kyle Korver have all proven that they have the ability to get hot and carry the team offensively, it’s painfully obvious that Rose is always the one we count on to take over a game and put it out of reach.
The media has pounded Rose’s injury issues this year into the ground (turf toe, lower back, groin, ankle, and now the ACL ), turning him into the point guard version of Sam Bowie. “Oh, Rose is soft. He’s so injury prone! He’s the next Penny Hardaway, right down to his number (they both share the #1).”
Look, those assertions are garbage. Tagging Rose as being injury prone or blaming Thibodeau as an overzealous coach overreacting to the 76ers scoring on two consecutive possessions are completely untrue. It’s the postseason, you don’t sit starters. Period. People need to remember that Derrick Rose played in 97 games last season (including the postseason). He had no offseason program to get into basketball shape. Couple that with lingering injuries and a compressed schedule, it was a recipe for disaster. Sooner or later, these minor injuries were going to nickel and dime Rose and something major was going to happen. Unfortunately for Bulls fans, it happened at the start of their run at a championship.
Fans should find solace in the fact that the Bulls went 18-9 with Rose out of the lineup. They also won a majority of those games with Hamilton and Deng missing substantial time. This injury almost gives the team more continuity because they’ve already had to adapt offensively without Rose as the team’s facilitator. Maybe this will give them an unfound confidence in knowing they know they can beat top competition without their leader.
The Bulls still have a chance to make a run. Are they as likely to upend Miami and reach the Finals for the first time since 1998? Certainly not. Anyone who thinks that depth doesn’t matter once the playoffs arrive is about to be shown why that’s a horrifically false statement. A team like the Bulls has the opportunity to plug in a quality player without sacrificing that depth. I’m not trying to imply that CJ Watson compares to Derrick Rose, but if we didn’t have a guy like Watson who instills some confidence, then our outlook would be much bleaker. In a season which the Bobcats set a record for futility, the Celtics and Spurs continued to defy father time and the Lakers and Magic outlasted injuries, trade rumors and immature big men to find themselves in the thick of some very winnable series.
My biggest fear is not for this season but for Rose’s future. With the Bulls being near the luxury tax threshold, their ability to add anyone via free agency will take some creativity. The duration of Rose’s absence is unknown, but if previous ACL injuries are used as a barometer, His current situation reminds me a lot of both Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul’s previous. Both suffered injury-plagued seasons with serious injuries, only to come back with refined skills and heightened senses of leadership. Lucky for us, Rose already has the leadership.