When reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose went down with a torn ACL Saturday in the Bulls' Game 1 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago's 2012 championship hopes went down with him.
Sure, the Bulls could (and probably should) still win this opening round series against Philadelphia. Heck, they might even get past either Boston or Atlanta in the second round and reach the Eastern Conference Finals. But the idea that they can beat the Miami Heat without Rose and break through to the NBA Finals is wishful thinking at best.
For the Bulls organization, here's the real pity of it: Now they have no idea how to proceed this offseason. After losing to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, team brass chose to keep the same group of players together. The thinking was, give this deep, talented roster another year together, and internal improvement by Rose and other players would (hopefully) be enough to push the Bulls past Miami and its triumvirate of star players.
It was a reasonable strategy by the Bulls organization. This group of players has posted the best regular season record in the NBA for two years running. They deserved the opportunity to stay together as is and take another shot at the title. If they failed to achieve that objective this spring, well, then maybe you go back to the drawing board.
Alas, the Rose injury throws a huge wrench in that line of thinking. Until Saturday, the concern was the Bulls might lose because they lack a strong enough second scoring option to help Rose out. The sad truth is now the Bulls are going to lose, and the reason will be Rose's injury. As a result, we and everyone involved with the Bulls organization will not get our answer as to whether this roster -- as currently constructed -- is capable of winning the NBA championship.
Now, there is no choice but to write this season off as a failure due to an injury suffered by a superstar player. So what do you do if you're Bulls GM Gar Forman? Do you bring everybody back and take another swing next season? Or has your patience run out? Do you package two or three of the quality players on this roster together, give up some depth and try to acquire that elusive second All-Star?
It's tough call with no definitive answer. I'm glad I'm not the one who has to make that decision.