They say the first stage of grief is denial.
When first told terrible news, one can’t help but not believe it’s true. Unfortunately, the news that Bulls star Derrick Rose tore his meniscus and requires yet another surgery was too cruel to be a lie.
I could use the cliché “it’s like a bad dream,” but Chicago’s already been through this before.
It’s more like a recurring nightmare.
Fans have anguished in the past over the loss of Rose and the championship hopes along with him. They’ve gone through it not once, but twice, and now with this being the third time a possible season ending injury engulfs Rose, many are sadly numb to it all.
Sadly, we won’t officially know how long he’s out until the completion of the surgery; speculation—as it is in most situations—isn’t anybody’s friend right now.
In a situation like his, Rose can either opt to, yet again, repair the torn meniscus which is what he did last year, and which requires a lot more rehabilitation, or he can opt to have it cut off permanently which requires less rehab but carries with it the possibility of knee problems down the line.
There is, of course, the Russell Westbrook model. Westbrook has seen three knee surgeries himself. Despite this, he is currently playing at a superhuman level right now—even winning the NBA All-Star game MVP.
So there is hope.
But then there’s the Brandon Roy model.
Roy’s knee injury in April of 2010 was the beginning of the end of his career. He attempted to come back but his ailing knees left him a shadow of a player he once was and he was never able to recover, eventually fading out into retirement. This, too, could be a potential path for Rose and only the future knows which path Rose will ultimately take himself and Bulls fans with him.
Next comes the anger.
There’s been anger at Tom Thibodeau for playing Rose late into the fourth quarter on Monday while the Bulls had a solid lead over the Milwaukee Bucks; but if Rose’s knees where this bad, then he was bound to be injured at some point down the line, it was just a matter of when. Plus, he was averaging a respective 32.4 minutes per game in February, which is hardly over-playing.
Then there’s been anger at Rose himself. This is the most misplaced and naïve anger I’ve seen from fans. People actually getting mad at Rose for getting himself injured like it’s something that he can prevent or something that he wants to happen.
There’s even been anger at the Bulls staff for not noticing that something was possibly up when Rose missed practice last Wednesday and played poorly on Monday against the Bucks. As misplaced as this anger may seem, it’s out there and very much a part of many Bulls’ fan’s thoughts.
As fans move past being angry with someone, they’ll approach their bargaining stage. “If only Rose had played less,” “if only Rose had been more cautious,” “if only Rose wore Nikes instead of Adidas.” So many alternative situations turned over and over in people’s heads which have Rose coming out on top without a scratch. Unfortunately, living in a fantasy world doesn’t get rid of the fact that the Bulls will now, for the third time, be going into the playoffs without their former MVP.
Now comes the depression.
The realization that the Bulls most likely will be without Rose yet again down the stretch is enough to even make the most virile person cry. It truly is sad to know that there’s a possibility Rose will never be able to play up to the ceiling that was once set so high for him, and fans won’t be able to see Rose reach that now non-existent ceiling.
The days of Rose’s fast break dunks over Goran Dragic, buzzer beaters in Milwaukee and cross-over ankle breakers against the NBA are long gone, now only distance—yet vivid—memories that make up the shrine of Rose’s pre-injury career forever engrained in our minds.
So what now?
Now, we all must move on to acceptance. Injuries are part of the package one accepts when becoming a fan of Derrick Rose and the Bulls. It’s now commonplace, no longer a surprising event. Instead, it’s simply become something fans grieve over and move on with.
Now, the Bulls must move on and try to stay afloat in a sea of uncertainty.
As Thibodeau always says, this team indeed has more than enough to win. They still have Jimmy Butler and his All-Star play and the now emerging Tony Snell, whose alien looking self is turning into a consistent player that Thibodeau seems to trust more and more every night. The front line is also still fully intact with Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, and Nikola Mirotic. It’s now time, to use another Thibodeau phrase, for the next man up. This Bulls team has sadly been in this situation before and they know how to play without their star.
With the loss of Rose, this team will need to compensate for his point production and, in my opinion, will revert back into the defensive powerhouse that they have been the past couple years.
Ultimately, the Bulls going forward—to borrow a line from F. Scott Fitzgerald—must now beat on, their boat against the current, being borne back ceaselessly into the past.
You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenWittenstein and listen to him every Thursday evening from 6-8pm ET only on WIUX.