Just past the midway part of the 2012-13 NBA season, injured Chicago Bull star Derrick Rose began practicing with the team. Within weeks, both teammates and coaching staff reported that Rose looked as explosive as he’d ever been, as the 2011 MVP worked on recovering from a left ACL tear, and his improving presence and the potential for possible good playoff portion even inspired the always-tactful Chicago Bulls medical staff to produce a passive/aggressive report detailing how Rose was “medically cleared” to return to game action.
Rose, even some two months after this clearance, did not return during the season. He instead chose to wait until the start of the 2013-14 campaign to make his return to action, and sadly Rose tore the meniscus in his right knee after 10 miserable games with his team. This time around, the Bulls intelligently chose to take the long view with Derrick, ruling him out for the year while deciding to re-attach the meniscus, rather than shave the injured portion of it down.
(I know. Gross.)
In echoing that smart, pound-wise approach, on Tuesday Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau decided to shield his star from further pressure as he recovers. Rose, who has been traveling with the team and shooting around before and after practice in between rehabilitation stints, isn’t likely to take the same approach with his teammates as the entire Bulls franchise, coaching staff, playing roster and fan base wait out the 2013-14 season.
Rose is out for the season after surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee, an injury that occurred Nov. 22. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose, who travels with the team, is continuing his rehabilitation. That includes running on a treadmill, pool work, shooting and, on Tuesday morning, some running with a harness that created resistance.
Thibodeau said it's "most likely not" that Rose will practice this season. But Noah still appreciates his presence.
"He’s in the gym non-stop, just working on his body getting better," Noah said. "That’s what it’s all about. He’s a big part of this team. He has that mentality of having no regrets. Just give it everything you got. If you can go, you can go. If you can’t, you did everything you could to make it."
The ACL is a more severe knee injury with a longer return time, and it’s not uncommon for players to need a full NBA year before returning to top form. Fellow recent ACL tear sufferers like Rajon Rondo and Lou Williams have had their struggles this season, despite going slow and smart with their own recovery waits.
A meniscus tear, though, is a little more frightening. You can return from an ACL tear and come back to just about full strength. With the meniscus, there is a significant chance that a player could lose some athleticism and mobility, all while risking the possibility of re-injury and potentially even a career-altering microfracture surgery down the line. Oklahoma City Thunder point man Russell Westbrook has had two surgeries on his meniscus-scarred knee since tearing it last April, and remains on the shelf. Phoenix hybrid guard Eric Bledsoe recently re-injured the same meniscus he tore two years ago. It, sadly, tends to linger.
This is why Rose, who will likely play with Team USA this summer, shouldn’t chance things in a practice during the winter. Bulls fans have heard this song before, but it’s best for Derrick to scrap the season as the team recovers in the summer, only to try it again in 2014-15.
That’s a full two years in basketball purgatory, and though Chicago has done incredibly well to field a respectable team in Rose’s time on the shelf, things have to change pretty quickly during the 2014 offseason. There is considerable conjecture as to whether or not the Bulls will waive Carlos Boozer this summer using the amnesty clause – it’s not really in owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s nature to pay a player to go away, while using more money to sign his replacement, but there is still hope that Spanish League tournament MVP Nikola Mirotic will be able to finagle his way to Chicago over the summer.
The highly-regarded forward, was discussed in a feature by Arlington Heights Daily Herald Bulls beat reporter Mike McGraw:
Hector Fernandez from Onda Cera Radio in Spain described Mirotic as his best friend.
“Niko is a winner. He has born for competition. He wants to win in every aspect,” Fernandez said. “He is ready for the NBA adventure for sure. Since he was drafted, he’s been interested in Chicago. He knows everything about the team and also about the city and the number of Serbian people who live there.”
"Chicago loves me and makes a great effort for me, a decision will be taken soon.”
Nikola’s current team, Real Madrid, is no pushover. He has a $2.5 million buyout this summer if he wants to jump to Chicago, and the Bulls can only offer so much to help him with that transaction without the figure counting against their cap. If the team lets go over Boozer, they’ll have just over double-figure cap space this summer once accounting for various cap and draft pick holds. As O’Donnell correctly points out, Mirotic’s skill set and resume (even at age 23, which Nikola turned on Tuesday) would likely earn him a contract approaching double-figures per year in the open market.
It’s not an open market, as complications about Chicago’s rights and the Real Madrid issue will cloud things. There is the Boozer question, at least with the team’s ownership (all right-minded basketball thinking points to waiving Carlos), and there is also the idea that Mirotic (despite the quotes listed above) may prefer to continue making a fine living with Real Madrid, and not pay his way out of the Spanish League. All of which is understandable, because as much as he would enjoy playing in the greatest city on earth, Nikola Mirotic would initially only be coming over for the basketball challenge of playing with the greatest players on earth.
If that follows through on staying with Real Madrid, then Chicago has its excuse to not waive Boozer, while paying for a replacement. All of which adds another year as Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson approach their 30s, with Rose possibly needing a half a season at least to find his sea legs. Assuming he doesn’t require the same surgery setbacks that Russell Westbrook has had to work through.
In the meantime, no practices for Derrick Rose. Which, despite the frustration of having him sit out yet another year, is a good thing in the end. Even if that doesn’t make things any less frustrating, as Chicago waits out its winter.
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