An MRI exam revealed a medial meniscus tear in Derrick Rose's right knee. Surgery is required and Rose is out indefinitely.
That sounds a lot like the Bulls' plan for the future -- indefinite.
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Taken on its own, this injury isn't necessarily cause for alarm. It's a relatively common occurrence for NBA players and a full recovery should be expected.
The time frame for recovery could depend on the severity of the tear, and whether or not the cartilage can be repaired. Four to six weeks seems to be the working plan for now, but it could be longer.
Don't be surprised if the team's official timetable remains indefinite, to avoid a recurrence of last season when reorts of Rose getting cleared by doctors and playing well in practice created a perception the Bulls were pressing him to return from ACL surgery.
A repair job figures to be the best scenario for Rose's long-term future. Dwyane Wade has argued his knee surgery while at Marquette, in which torn cartilage was removed, caused bone bruises and tendinitis as he career progressed.
For the Bulls, Rose's availability for later this season means everything, because there isn't much of a backup plan. A year ago, when the Bulls knew Rose would miss the majority of the season, they found an ideal temporary replacement in Nate Robinson, who excelled at Rose's late-game scoring role.
With Rose back, the Bulls figured they didn't need Robinson or Marco Belinelli. Now they need those guys, but there's no way to get them back.
Maybe they'll sign former Bobcats and Warriors shooting guard Reggie Williams, but for the most part, the Bulls should plan on using rookies Tony Snell and Erik Murphy to fill in, rather than running the starters into the ground. Without Robinson, the Bulls aren't likely to match last year's success without Rose.
But, the Eastern Conference is pretty weak. So if Rose misses, say, two months, a good playoff run still seems possible if the team can somehow stay healthy in the spring.
If Rose is out longer, or for the entire season, then there's no point trying to salvage anything. With Rose back on the shelf, a lottery spot would be the best ending to this season. Then the Bulls could retool in the summer with the option of dropping Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer.
Rose's injury occurred in the third quarter of Friday's loss to Portland. While making a cut to the basket, Rose's right knee buckled when he stopped and tried to change direction. He did not go to the floor, but limped to the bench and later was helped to the locker room. He was using crutches as he left the arena.
In some ways, Saturday's diagnosis is relatively good news as it's certainly better than an ACL tear.
It might be better than a lateral meniscus tear, which is what sidelined Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook during last season's playoffs. Westbrook returned to game action in about six months and is performing well this season.
An extreme example of a medial meniscus tear is Metta World Peace, while playing for the Lakers last season. The former Bull once known as Ron Artest had arthroscopic surgery to repair the injury and was originally expected to miss six weeks. He was back on the floor in about 12 days, but has mentioned getting his knee drained of fluid twice over the summer. Chris Paul missed two months in 2010 after repairing torn cartilage.
The lateral and medial meniscus cartilage serves as something of a shock absorber above the tibia. If the cartilage is removed, there is less cushion in the knee.
For the short term, the Bulls will finish the circus road trip without their starting backcourt. Jimmy Butler is already out with a turf toe injury.
Fortunately for the Bulls, they have depth at point guard with Kirk Hinrich, veteran Mike James and second-year guard Marquis Teague. Overall depth already seemed to be a problem during the losses to Denver and Portland, though, with Mike Dunleavy moving into the starting lineup in place of Butler.
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