LOS ANGELES -- Joakim Noah strolled slowly through Beverly Hills Saturday night with both hands in his pockets wearing the countenance of a man who couldn't believe what was going on as he gazed into the sky.
It's hard to blame him. In so many ways, Noah's emotions represented how many are feeling within the Bulls organization right now. They cannot believe that Derrick Rose has to deal with a serious injury again. They can't believe that for the second straight season they have to deal with so much uncertainty. Most of all, they can't believe they have to face the same reality that Rose's absence -- and another bad looking MRI -- brings. After such high hopes regarding a possible championship run, the Bulls have to come to terms with the fact that those dreams are over.
There's still a small chance that doctors may not find the damage to the medial meniscus in Rose's right knee to be too bad. Once they start the procedure, they could also decide to take the meniscus out altogether, thus allowing the former MVP to be back on the floor in a matter of weeks. What seems much more likely, according to one source with knowledge of the situation, is that Rose and the Bulls will decide to re-attach the meniscus which would put him out for several months -- and potentially the season. The thinking, according to the source, being that with Rose's age just 25, and with the Bulls having so much money still wrapped up in his future, it is better to be cautious rather than to put him at risk for more knee problems down the line.
The problem for the Bulls is that Rose's latest health issue is a jarring reminder that things may never be the same again. If Rose and the Bulls decide to take the longer-term approach it would mark the third straight season Rose has missed a significant amount of time. Many fans have forgotten that in the lockout shortened 2011-12 season, Rose missed almost half of his team's games because of various injuries before blowing out the ACL in his left knee in the first game of the 2012 playoffs.
The fact that Rose has now hurt his other knee is a gut punch to the entire organization, but it also brings up a , hard truth and a tag that will be hard for Rose to shake.
He is injury prone.
Rose may well come back from this latest knee surgery and be the player that he had been again. It wouldn't be unprecedented given the wonders of modern medicine and Rose's work ethic. But a return to that kind of prominence is hard for even the most ardent of Bulls fans to believe in at the moment. Rose has had two major injuries on plays when he wasn't even touched. It will be hard for the Bulls to believe that he will still be able to be the superstar piece on a championship contender because of all the injury concerns.
This part of the equation brings up another interesting quandary for Bulls GM Gar Forman. With the reality setting in that Rose could be out for months, will Forman and the front office be forced to make decisions that they wouldn't have otherwise?
The Bulls were built to win a title this season. They were not built to withstand his absence as they were a season ago. Having popular reserves like Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli would have the Bulls moving forward, but neither player was going to be a big enough difference-maker to push the Bulls to a title. The Bulls were built around Rose being the player that he always was. Now that it appears he will be out again it may force Forman to move veteran forward Luol Deng. The All-Star won't have much trade value given that he is in the final year of his contract. But Forman would be wise to move Deng for whatever he can if there is a real chance Rose could miss the rest of the year.
Why hang onto Deng if the Bulls don't have a chance to win a title? And make no mistake, the Bulls have no chance to win a title without Rose.
In the meantime, the Bulls are left to hope against hope one more time that Rose's injury won't be as bad as it appears to be. They'll know for sure in the next couple days once doctors get a closer look at Rose's knee. For now, they are left to wait and wonder about what might have been, like Noah was doing late Saturday night.