The Chicago Bulls were expected to be a prime contender to dethrone the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference this season, but those chances evaporated when star Derrick Rose injured his right knee in Friday’s loss at Portland. On the bright side for Bulls fans, Rose didn’t tear his ACL, an injury he suffered in his left knee that kept him out all of last season. However, Rose did tear his medial meniscus and will miss the remainder of this season.
Rose could have had a different procedure that would have allowed him to return this year, but that can cause problems down the road — Dwyane Wade is one who has said as much. The team opted to take the conservative route with the 25-year-old star. With that news, the Bulls’ Eastern Conference championship odds at Bovada rose from 3-1 to 7-1, and their NBA championship odds from 7-1 to 16-1.
Chicago is used to playing without Rose at this point. He has played in just 50 games over the past three seasons, after winning the 2010-11 MVP award, as he battled injuries in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign before then tearing his ACL in Chicago’s first playoff game that season. Just for comparison, the Heat hadn’t yet won a championship.
Chicago did finish 45-37 last season without Rose and beat Brooklyn in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Miami in five games. That team had a much better bench than the current club and the Bulls couldn’t afford to bring back Marco Belinelli and former Celtic Nate Robinson. Now, the Bulls will have to use veteran Kirk Hinrich, certainly on the downside of his career, and Marquis Teague at the point. In the last three seasons, Chicago is 37-13 with Rose active and 64-46 without him.
This injury figures to alter the entire course of the Bulls’ franchise and perhaps the NBA championship race this year. Chicago isn’t going to win a title without Rose. The team kept the core of Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer intact for one last run in 2013-14. The Bulls are over the salary cap and now could look to deal Deng, who will become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Any contender would love to have Deng, but he might not bring too much back in return since he can walk next summer. The Bulls haven’t made an effort to sign the two-time All-Star to an extension. Deng would likely become the top player available unless Danny Ainge changes his mind about Rajon Rondo. Boozer is a prime candidate to be amnestied after this season and his contract is likely too onerous to draw much on the market. Boston faces the Bulls for the first time on Jan. 2 in Chicago.
The Rose injury wasn’t the only big one in the NBA last week. Memphis lost center Marc Gasol, the 2012-13 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, indefinitely to an MCL sprain. He was hurt in Friday’s loss to San Antonio. Gasol won’t need surgery but could miss up to three months. Memphis, a Western Conference finalist last season, is now 33-1 to win the NBA title.