The Chicago Tribune reports, in the midst of an in-depth analysis of whether the Bulls' moves are financially-based or basketball-driven, that Derrick Rose is "out until likely March."
Reports in May had targeted an early January return for Rose, but March is more consistent with the tentative-12-months prognosis often given to ACL injuries. There's no way to be sure, though. Rose could bust through rehab and make it back by January. He could have setbacks and miss the entire year. It's a long and difficult process with steps along the way, but all of them have to go right for him to hit the optimistic end. And updated projection two months later of March is not a good sign.
Rose being out until March would spell doom for the Bulls' season. They might be able to maintain their pace they did last season, even after losing several key bench contributors, but there's no way Rose is back to anything close to himself by the time the playoffs roll around in mid-April. That puts the Bulls' chances at a title in the "not great under any conceivable scenario" category. And without Rose, if things don't go as swimmingly with the new cast of characters as they did last season, the Bulls could wind up on the outside of the playoffs, a stunning fall from their No.1 seeding in the East two years in a row.
But it's still early. There's a good chance Rose can get back on track, and make January or at least split the difference and return after the All-Star break. Two months to find his rhythm is much better than six weeks before the playoffs and things might be salvageable. But the longer this thing goes, the more the temptation will be to shut Rose down for the entire year. If that happens, this year doesn't even exist for Bulls fans.
Things can change just that quickly.