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Saturday, November 23, 2013
Long winter for Rose looms

By Marc Stein

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose is likely looking at another long season of watching and healing.

The Chicago Bulls aren't saying so yet -- because they really can't yet -- but Derrick Rose admirers everywhere have to start preparing for precisely what they don't want to hear.

Because the rising fear, royally sad as it sounds, is that we could well have seen the last of D-Rose this season.

Although the Bulls will only go as far for now as listing Rose as out "indefinitely" after Saturday's MRI confirmed that he's suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee, there are already rumbles coming out of Chicago that the Bulls are privately bracing for Rose to miss the remainder of the 2013-14 schedule.

It won't be a certainty until we know exactly which form of meniscus surgery Rose needs. Only when the knee is opened can surgeons determine if the meniscus needs to be fully reattached, which typically calls for a four-to-six-month rehabilitation period, or if a fast-tracked arthroscopic repair is an option. "Trimming" the meniscus can indeed lead to a speedy return to the floor, as seen last season with Metta World Peace, but doctors generally say that full reattachments net the best long-term results.

And ...

As sources close to the situation were quick to point out Saturday, Rose's camp has already shown, through its handling of his torn left ACL back in April 2012 and the full season he sat out before rejoining the Bulls, that it prefers the longer, measured, safety-first approach.

Given that Rose is now dealing with a major injury in his other knee -- and having watched Team USA colleague Russell Westbrook need two surgeries and nearly seven months to recover from his own meniscus tear this past spring -- it's understandable why the rising expectation around the Bulls is that the Chicago native will be cautious again in working his way back.

After playing 81 of 82 games in his MVP season of 2010-11, Rose missed 27 of 66 games in the 2011-12 lockout season thanks to a variety of ailments (toe, back, groin and ankle) before losing out on all 82 games last season to fully rehab his left knee. Rose was averaging only 15.9 points and 4.3 assists on 35.4 percent shooting in 10 of 11 games he played this season, so when you factor in those struggles on top of the fact his latest setback was a noncontact injury, you're straining in the worst way to manufacture any incentive for the 25-year-old to try to find a quick fix.

The Bulls face countless questions about their future now, with a tough amnesty decision to make on Carlos Boozer in July, Luol Deng also headed for free agency next summer, unresolved tensions between coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Gar Forman and a payroll that will cost them nearly $12 million in luxury tax at season's end if they keep the roster as is through the Feb. 20 trade deadline.

But even if the Bulls make all the right calls on those fronts -- even if they do something great with the first-round pick Charlotte still owes them and get the most out of the eventual arrival of Real Madrid big man Nikola Mirotic while continuing to develop Jimmy Butler -- nursing Rose to something resembling lasting health is priority No. 1.

And the fast track, after Knee Tragedy No. 2, sure doesn't sound like the way to get there.