This was never going to be the end for Derrick Rose.
Everyone's first fear was that Rose had suffered an ACL tear Friday night in Portland. Now that the news is not so discouraging -- Rose will undergo surgery on a medial meniscus tear in his right knee -- he and the Bulls can benefit from the perspective of this latest scare. The former MVP is barely 25, and he may yet be back before the playoffs.
Even if Rose doesn't come back until next year, he and the Bulls will recognize that he avoided the worst outcome.
Rose has many good years still to go in his career. Think about Shaun Livingston, Greg Oden and others who have overcome worse injuries to continue playing in the NBA: They must now become the examples that inspire Rose.
Will Rose ever be the player he thought he could be? That should no longer be the question. Instead of obsessing over what he might have been, he may have to eventually focus on and accept the goal of becoming the best player he can be after dealing with surgeries on both knees. Even if his game has to change over the years ahead, that doesn't necessarily mean he can't have an influential career.
The bottom line for Rose is that his love for basketball is being tested in a horrible way.
If Rose somehow is able to come back this season, the Bulls will have to account for the additional rust that his game will have accumulated by the time he does finally return. Rose was averaging career lows of 15.9 points, 4.3 assists and 35.4 percent shooting from the floor when his latest injury occurred.
Most likely is that the East will be a two-team race between last season's conference finalists Miami and Indiana. The only team with the talent on paper to challenge the two-time defending champion Heat and the 11-1 Pacers is in Brooklyn, but the $189 million Nets (3-9) have looked old and derelict, with even less passion than their underachieving squad from last year.
The one outcome that is inconceivable in Chicago is that the Bulls will lapse out of playoff contention. In spite of Rose's year-long absence last season and numerous injuries to his teammates, coach Tom Thibodeau drove the Bulls to 45 wins and the second round of the playoffs after upsetting the hopeless Nets. Between Thibodeau, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and their other high achievers, the Bulls are sure to be back in the playoffs -- they may earn home court advantage in their mediocre conference.