Everything seems to be going well in the quest to repair Derrick Rose's injured left knee.
But Bulls physician Dr. Brian Cole, who performed the surgery Saturday, feels the best-case scenario for Rose returning to the court is next January.
The worst-case scenario would be missing all of next season and returning for the 2013-14 campaign.
"People do get back in six months after ACL reconstruction, but it's not common in a professional sport with an athlete of this caliber," Cole said Tuesday during a news conference at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
"The time frame that we believe an athlete of this caliber generally requires is about 8-12 months. Sometimes shorter, sometimes longer."
This ordeal began April 28, in the final two minutes of the Bulls' Game 1 victory over Philadelphia at the United Center. Rose came to a jump stop in the lane and immediately collapsed to the floor, grabbing his left knee.
In an instant, the outlook for the Bulls went from championship expectations to rough waters heading into next season. After losing Rose, the top-seeded Bulls lost four of five games to the Sixers and were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round.
"Obviously short term, we're going to take a hit," general manager Gar Forman said. "Our thinking in general long term won't change at all."
There's a good chance the Bulls also will be missing forward Luol Deng at the start of next season. He's planning to play for Great Britain in the London Olympics in August, then likely will have surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist.
This summer the Bulls will have to decide if it makes sense to trim salary from the payroll, while two of their three highest-paid players are expected to miss the start of next season.
"We'll get through it," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We want (Rose) to prioritize his health right now. When he's ready to come back, he comes back. There will be no pressure on him to come back soon. When he's ready, he's ready. We'll move forward from there."
Cole said besides repairing a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the surgical team also repaired a medial meniscus cartilage tear and trimmed a small outer meniscal tear. He didn't think the cartilage damage is much of a concern.
Rose was said to be in good spirits, ready to attack the long rehabilitation that's ahead of him.
"It's really a series of progressions, very knee-focused initially, which is what we're doing now," Cole said. "We sort of spread out from there, involving entire body conditioning and performance training and so forth. It incorporates a lot of risk prevention, exercise to prevent reinjury.
"While he will be in, hopefully, a very high level in 12 months, it still may take slightly longer for him to be at his preinjury level. That's not uncommon in athletes of this caliber."
Everyone can be reasonably certain Rose will perform again at an all-star level. The Bulls have been through this same injury with Omer Asik and Jamal Crawford in the past decade, though ACL tears are relatively uncommon in the NBA.
The best comparison to Rose might be Baron Davis, who tore an ACL while in college at UCLA and went on to display explosive athleticism early in his NBA career.
"As a patient, he's done everything I've asked and more," Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi said. "You ask Derrick to be there at 11 and he's there at 10:30. Once you get him there, he does exactly what you ask. He'll be terrific in this, I have no doubt."
Thibodeau will return:
Bulls general manager Gar Forman spoke briefly about the contract status of coach Tom Thibodeau. In two seasons on the job, Thibodeau guided the team to the league's overall top seed twice. He also won 100 games faster than any coach in NBA history.
"Obviously, Tom's option (for next season) will be picked up," Forman said Tuesday. "We started having conversations about an extension with him in the fall, and we hope to continue those discussions now that we're in the off-season.
"Obviously we value Tom greatly. We value what he brings to the organization, what he's brought to the team. We think he's one of the finest coaches in the league, and we're hopeful he'll be our coach long term."