On the same day that former MVP Derrick Rose underwent successful surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee, Rose’s diminished Bulls squad did what lifetime field workers do when they win the lottery and then suddenly lose the fortune: they threw on their hard hats and went back to work. Going into work won’t be as fun anymore, and the paparazzi disappears once you are broke, so Chi-Town will no longer be a hot-spot for NBA heads looking for the reincarnation of Isaiah Thomas. At least not until D. Rose returns next season…hopefully.
Since Rose’s second-season ending injury in three years, the Bulls have been experiencing the damaging effects of another rapid culture change and haven’t won a game since. In fact, they got crushed by the Clippers 121-82 in their first game after losing Rose, and lost a tough overtime game on Monday night to the lowly, 2-14 Utah Jazz by a score of 89-83.
That’s how it has been for the Chicago Bulls: Everything is flipped upside down.
''I felt for him. He is a great person, first and foremost,'' Coach Thibodeau said to the press before Chicago played at Utah. Rose was injured Friday night at Portland and the 2011 NBA MVP missed all of last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Chicago's 2012 playoff opener against Philadelphia.
He has played in just 50 NBA games since the Bulls' run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2011.
With Rose’s human highlight show grounded again, the Bulls go from a rocket ship driven by Chuck Yeager to a faceless collective of players who need to execute the basic principles of basketball to perfection just to compete on a nightly basis. Without Rose’s 20 points per game, coach Tom Thibodeau and his lockdown defensive scheme moves back into the role of “team superstar.” This is Thibs team again.
“I think we have an understanding of what we need to do," Thibodeau said. "We can't feel sorry for ourselves. We have to circle the wagons, and then get out there and get the job done."
With no extraordinary player to execute offensively and sway the outcome of games, the Bulls didn’t waste any time reforming back to their gritty, scrappy style. It’s clear that Chicago’s game speed has dropped a couple of mph’s in Rose’s absence. Like last season, Chi-Town will rely on a heavy dose of scoring from Luol Deng, and Carlos Boozer (combined 50 points and 26 boards against Utah) and rebound monster Joakim Noah (who after seven years in the league still moves like Gheorghe Muresan in the post).
Fortunately for Chicago, these secondary parts have gotten plenty of time to figure out how to survive without Rose, but they will go through another inevitable learning curve. On Monday, Chicago bumped and grinded its way to overtime, before eventually losing 89-83 to the lowly Utah Jazz, who have the NBA’s worst record at 2-14.
Everything was off-kilter for Chicago. Aside from the fact that they had no go-to guy down the stretch, if Rose were present, Jazz rookie Trey Burke would never be the best guard on the court as he was on Monday, scoring 14 points, pulling six rebounds, and dishing five dimes. Burke was the diminutive rim-rocker who gave Chicago the business, including a huge three in OT to put Utah up 83-78. Then Burke made a steal, and with about 15 seconds left in OT, he dished to Richard Jefferson for an emphatic dunk to ice the game at 87-80.
Without Rose’s cool clutchness, hip-hop mobbing and aerial acrobatic steez, the basketball enthusiasm in The Windy City goes from live, like when Jordan played, to an arena where high school coaches take their JV squads to show them an example of a pro team executing a perfectly boring team concept.
D. Rose’s absence snatches the title hopes from Chicago like a sibling eating the last piece of chicken at Sunday dinner before you get to the table. Rehab and recovery time for a repaired meniscus is 3-6 months, and it is well-documented that Rose took his time returning from the ACL, so expect this upcoming rehab to go through a similarly slow process. The surgery was performed by team physicians Brian Cole (who was part of the team who repaired Rose's left ACL) and Chuck Bush Joseph at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Had he wanted to come back this season at all costs, Rose could have undergone a procedure with a shorter recovery time but a higher risk of re-injury. Instead, the 25-year-old Rose will again take the more cautious path, given the fact that he is Chicago's future and into the franchise for a grip. He’s the team’s highest-paid player at $17.6 million this season, and he has three more years remaining on a five-year, $94 million contract extension that was signed in 2011.
Philosophically it’s time for Chicago to chuck the Mike Mills theme song and bust out the Chopin. It’s going to be another tough, slow-winding road. And even if they do manage to win a bit like last year, nobody is going to want to see the ugly cousin of the ‘94 Knicks playing gorilla ball in the 2013 playoffs.