Derrick Rose to Undergo Knee Surgery

For the third consecutive season, Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is having his season cut short by another knee injury. ESPN broke the news late Tuesday night that team doctors discovered a tear of the meniscus in the guard’s right knee. While the surgery has not been scheduled and there is no current timetable for a return, Bulls fans are sure to have that feeling of letdown that they have become accustomed to over the last two years. April will mark three years since Rose first tore his ACL in the first round of the 2012 playoffs. While that moment was traumatic for a team that had serious championship aspirations, it wasn’t something they felt would hold them back in future seasons. Rose then went on to miss the 2012-13 season altogether in what was a public relations nightmare regarding whether or not he would make a return. The league’s youngest MVP finally returned to the court for the 2013-14 campaign to cause a stir of excitement for Bulls fans across the country. His season lasted only 10 games as Rose then tore his meniscus towards the end of November. The team had learned their lesson and ruled out Rose for the remainder of the season before letting the media begin speculation on his return.

Rehab went well this time around and Rose came into camp for this season with plenty of confidence after a hard-working summer with the USA Men’s National Team. No one expected Rose to return to his MVP form overnight after essentially missing two entire seasons. His mere presence was all the Bulls needed as the front office had built a team to produce without the need for Rose to shoulder the load. Rose has definitely had his struggles this season shooting a horrific 40% from the field and not playing with the same explosiveness that fans had become accustomed to earlier in his career. The Bulls have spent most of this season trying to find the right formula to succeed with their current roster, possibly the best team they have had since the unfortunate 2012 season. Over the last month, Rose began showing some of his flash and confidence in attacking the basket. He no longer appeared content with settling for outside jumpshots and seemed ready to return to the form of Derrick Rose that we all remember.

Then it happened. Again. This time is different as we did not see the injury occur on the court. Rose complained of soreness in his knee, and after some tests the tear was revealed. Even though Rose is no longer relied on as the team’s main scoring option, when he is healthy it allows the rest of the team to properly fill their roles. Now the team will turn to backup point guards Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks to fill the void left again by Rose. While the two are reliable options as guards, they don’t have the capability to wear down opposing guards like Kyrie Irving and John Wall over a seven game playoff series. They also lack the flair for big game dramatics that Rose has been known to possess. Fortunately for the Bulls, this is nothing new to them and head coach Tom Thibodeau. The team has shown over the past two seasons that they are more than capable of competing against the league’s best teams. Center Joakim Noah enjoyed a breakout year last season as he anchored the offense and even led the team in assists.

Noah, Butler, and Gasol look to lead the Bulls.

This year’s Bulls are even more built to succeed without Rose. Pau Gasol has enjoyed the rejuvenation of his career posting his highest numbers since his prime five years ago in Los Angeles. The rise of shooting guard Jimmy Butler is also a huge bonus for the team. Butler earned his first career All Star appearance this season leading the Bulls in scoring at just a tick above 20 points per game. The breakout guard has quickly become the focal point of a Bulls offense that is having its best production in recent memory. Currently sitting third in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls must now regroup and trust the trio of Butler, Gasol, and Noah to lead them to a playoff run. With experience in playing without Rose and the hard-nosed prowess of coach Thibodeau, it would be no surprise to see the Bulls still finish in the top half of the standings. Without Rose, however, the Bulls will once again be lacking that final piece to consider a legit championship run.

Goran Dragic is a viable option for the Bulls.

Looking to next season the Bulls and Rose will have many questions that need to be answered. At the age 26 with three knee surgeries, Rose needs to take a deep look within and decide what his NBA career plans will be going forward. Gone are his days of lighting up the scoreboard on a nightly basis. The mental toll taken on an athlete after three surgeries is sure to leave some doubt in his mind about his physical performance. For the Bulls, it may be time to consider building the team around Jimmy Butler. It’s not a bad option considering Butler is on the verge of breaking into superstardom thanks to his drastic improvements across all facets of his game. The Bulls front office has been extremely effective in finding hidden gems in the draft and building teams that fit well into Thibodeau’s schemes. If Rose does miss another 12 months of action, the Bulls owe it to themselves to at least inquire about upcoming free agent Goran Dragic. The current Heat point guard is by far the best option available in this summer’s free agent class to lead an offensive unit with pieces already in place. The team can no longer be handcuffed to Rose, whose knees are letting them down for a third straight year. It may be hard for Bulls fans to accept this truth, but continuing this same story year after year is getting old.

Overall, the team is still in good shape to finish out this season and moving forward. They possess a better core trio of players than most other teams and are supplemented with some youthful role players in Nikola Mirotic, Tony Snell, and Doug McDermott. They still remain a point guard away from being contenders, and Goran Dragic just may the one to fill that role in the 2015-16 season.

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