When Derrick Rose suffered a torn ACL in the 2012 NBA playoffs, he returned 17 months later to a similar-looking team, complete with Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, an improved Jimmy Butler and a new backcourt mate in Kirk Hinrich.
This time around, that may not be the case.
With Luol Deng's future in Chicago in jeopardy and Carlos Boozer having just two seasons remaining on his contract (this season and next), a league source told the New York Daily News that Rose is worried about the team's immediate future as a contender.
"Derrick is worried that the Bulls are going to lose what they have," the source said. "He doesn't want to go through rebuilding."
While the Bulls may look different when Rose returns for the start of the 2014-15 season, it'd be quite a stretch to consider them in rebuilding mode -- even in a worst-case scenario.
Assuming no trades occur, Noah is under contract until 2015-16, Butler has another year left after this one before he likely becomes a restricted free agent (meaning the Bulls could match any deal another team offers him), forward Taj Gibson is in a career-year and just began a four-year, $36 million deal, and rookie Tony Snell is under team control through at least 2016-17.
There's still plenty of talent on the roster, and if Deng and Boozer do not return, it also frees up plenty of cap space for the Bulls to potentially take a run at a big-time free agent. Chicago currently has just $42 million on the books for the 2015-16 season. Assuming Butler gets paid, the team would have more than enough to offer a maximum contract to a free agent and still sign Noah to an extension.
There's also the Eastern Conference to analyze. As it stands, just three teams (Miami, Indiana, Atlanta) currently have records better than .500. There are teams getting younger and more talented, but there's also the New Yorks and Brooklyns that have no shot at competing for some time because of awful front-office decision making. Consider the Bulls lucky in this regard -- they also have that Charlotte lottery pick, which could net an impact player in one of the next three drafts.
Rose may be frustrated at the current state of affairs in Chicago, but the front office's smarts, combined with Tom Thibodeau's ability to coach up his young players has the Bulls' future looking promising. Of course, that all hinges on Rose himself returning 100 percent.