Most Chicago Bulls fans would admit the loss of Derrick Rose for the rest of the postseason severely reduced the Bulls' chances of winning a title. But what about next season? Rose may not return until February, 2013, and when he does come back, how good will he be?
That's one of the topics our panel weighs in on this week.
Fact or Fiction: Derrick Rose's injury will wipe out two years of championship contention for the Bulls.
Scoop Jackson: Fact: Truth is, the medical community's best work won't get Derrick back faster than anyone else in the history of the game who has suffered the same injury. Plus, we can't forget, he has those other nagging injuries that need to heal. The only hinge of hope is that Rose does an MJ circa 1985-86 and miraculously comes back 100 percent 7-10 games before the playoffs begin, helps the Bulls get into the playoffs, then does what Jordan wasn't able to do against the Celtics: Win. It's a long shot, but we're talking about Derrick Rose, we should be allowed to dream, right?
Melissa Isaacson: Fiction: Rose is young, has never had knee surgery and there is no reason to think he will not dedicate himself to rehab. Though we do not know the exact extent of his injury and how his body will recover, even if it takes him nine months to get back to the court, there is no reason to think that come playoff time, he will not be close to his former self. Is this enough to guarantee that the Bulls will be championship contenders? Probably not, but how do you wipe out any chance for next year at this point? Not ready to do that yet.
Jon Greenberg: Fact. The team will have lower expectations going into next season, which might not be a bad thing. Luol Deng will likely miss some time next season if and when he gets wrist surgery after the Olympics. The Bulls will have to work both back in during the regular season. Maybe that twist will be beneficial to the goal of winning a title, as the team jells late and carries newfound momentum into the playoffs. But I can't presuppose that will happen until I see it. It's rare to see an almost entire team play together two years in a row. Will the Bulls make it three? It's tough to see them dealing anyone, and they don't have any go-to individual scorer besides Rose. This is uncommon territory for the young point guard and we don't know how his body and mind will respond.
Fact or Fiction: Luol Deng should have surgery immediately after the season and skip the Olympics now that the Bulls already will start next season without Derrick Rose.
Scoop Jackson: Fact: The wrist has been the bane of his season, all season. At times he's had to be both Batman and Robin. Next season, he's going to have to return as the Bulls' Dark Knight. All season long. Luol needs to be beyond 100 percent to hold the team down until the above mentioned miracle occurs. The only way of having the slightest chance of that happening is if he shuts the entire summer down, forgos the Olympics, forgos working on whatever part of his game he was going to concentrate as he's done every off season and forgos thinking about hooping until October.
Melissa Isaacson:Fact: There is a lot more involved in this than a simple yes or no. Like Rose, Deng has certain obligations to represent the UK in the Olympics. That said, his primary obligation is to the Bulls and they need him to be at full strength next season, whether Rose was going to be in uniform or not. It would be a supreme sacrifice for Deng to have surgery right after the season and skip the Olympics, but Deng has shown himself to be selfless in that regard. Besides, it's a smart move for his own career as well.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. Deng is a very proud grown man who wants to represent the country that took his family in after they fled Egypt, and before that, Sudan. I know his contract supersedes the Olympics, and if he were on the American team, I'd say skip it 100 percent. But the British team is counting on him to represent the country on its home soil. If he feels it's important to him, he should do it. Sometimes it's tough to remember these guys are human beings, not fantasy players on a computer. Deng has been through a lot to get to this point, and he deserves this reward. Next season will be there when he gets back. Also, it's not like his team will be playing until the gold medal round, and he can't make the injury worse.
Fact or Fiction: Carlos Boozer is proving again that he's not reliable in the playoffs.
Scoop Jackson:Fiction: Not soon enough. If he doesn't do something of significance and play a major role in the Bulls getting past the 76ers, then yes, that would become fact. Until then, I think it's too early (and too easy) to call Boozer unreliable. It also depends on what we are realistically expecting out of him. Are we looking for Boozer to give the Bulls 20/10 a night, 15/8 or 10/5? I'm not taking up for the guy, but what are the true expectations of him in the playoffs? I ask because that's where the reliability lies. If we just rely on Boozer to play serviceably until Taj Gibson can get in the game, then we can rely on him. If more is expected, then that's a different story. But as it stands right now, he has between three and five games to prove whether or not the Bulls can truly depend on him in these playoffs. We just have to wait and watch.
Melissa Isaacson:Fiction: Too soon to say that, though they sure could have used him Tuesday night. But after coming through so solidly this past season, there is no reason to think he won't bounce back in Philadelphia. He was not quite as awful in Game 1 with seven rebounds and 50 percent field goal shooting. But he is going to have to do a much better job defensively and be more engaged offensively if the Bulls have a chance to get out of the first round. If he's not going to play defense, at least hit your season averages of 15 points, 8.5 rebounds. If he disappears in Game 3, I'm inclined to agree.
Jon Greenberg: Fiction. But only because it's just been two games. I've got to give him another game before I agree to that. In Game 1, he played well enough. He only got off eight shots, and still had seven rebounds and four assists. In Game 2, he was silent in the second half, but the Sixers' defense flummoxed the Bulls, who never really got into an offense. Boozer's rainbow jumper hasn't been falling, and they need to find a way to get him quick looks near the paint. If Boozer has a bad Game 3, I'm ready to deem this a playoff failure, because any kind of deficit will make it more difficult for the Bulls to advance to give him more time to redeem himself.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com. Melissa Isaacson and Jon Greenberg are columnists for ESPNChicago.com.