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The Bulls Can Still Compete Without Derrick Rose

It was announced Tuesday night that Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus in his right knee and will need surgery.

Sound familiar?

It seems now like a yearly occurrence for the 2011 MVP to be hurt for an extended period of time. This is the third straight season that Rose has gotten hurt, and the second straight year the injury has been a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Surgery will be scheduled immediately, and a timeline for his rehab and return will be determined after the procedure.

The Bulls currently sit in the third spot in the Eastern Conference with a record of 36-21 and looked primed to make a run in the weak East, but now their star is out yet again. Luckily, Chicago has proven in the past that they can get by without Rose after getting only 49 games from him in the past three seasons prior to this one. And thanks to a combination of internal development and external acquisitions, they have even shown the ability to thrive in his absence this year.

The Bulls are 7-4 without Rose on the year and will lean on budding star Jimmy Butler as well as veterans Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. As sad as the Rose news is, the Bulls can still get past this injury thanks to the other high-level talent on the roster.

Gasol – the prized piece of Chicago’s offseason haul – has seamlessly transitioned into his new home. The skilled 7-footer leads the team in rebounds (12.1) and blocks (2.1), while ranking third in scoring (18.3).

Chicago’s leading scorer is Butler, the fourth-year swingman out of Marquette. Butler is slated to hit restricted free agency at season’s end, and he has exploded this year after betting on himself to bounce back after a rough year. He currently holds career highs in points (20.3), field goal percentage (46), rebounds (5.9), assists (3.3) and PER (22.5).

Noah – the reigning Defensive Player of the Year – has been rounding into form after undergoing left knee surgery over the summer. Learning to play alongside a low-post weapon like Gasol has been another adjustment Noah has had to make, but the two have begun to complement each other nicely after a tough start. The high-motor big man is a key defensive cog and offensive catalyst from the high post, and he positively impacts the game in so many different ways when he’s right.

Don’t forget about what the Bulls can bring off the bench, as Taj Gibson is one of the league’s top reserves when he’s at his best. Gibson is shooting almost 50 percent from the field and pours in 10.8 points a night while also grabbing almost seven boards per contest. His energy level on both ends was as high as ever in the first two games after the All-Star break, and his importance to Chicago’s success only increases with Rose being out for an extended period of time again.

Guys like Kirk Hinrich (who will likely be the starter in Rose’s absence), Aaron Brooks, Nikola Mirotic and Tony Snell will all have to step up with Rose out of the lineup. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has done a good job getting the most out of Rose-less rosters in the past, and Thibodeau will have to do it again.

Rose has missed a total of 192 games in the Bulls’ last four seasons, and relying on him to be the franchise player he was thought to be just isn’t realistic anymore. But as Thibodeau likes to say, Chicago has more than enough to still contend in the putrid Eastern Conference, even with Rose dealing with another major injury. And who knows, maybe Rose somehow returns this season and helps spark a deep postseason run.

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