(Reuters) – Derrick Rose’s season-ending knee injury in the Chicago Bulls’ playoff opener is a major blow to the top-seeded team’s hopes of capturing their first National Basketball Association (NBA) title in 14 years.
The injury, which will keep Rose from participating in the London Olympics as a member of the US basketball team, could also shake up the Eastern Conference playoff bracket given the gaping hole it will create for a team that was three wins away from a berth in the NBA Finals last year.
But the Bulls, who hold a 1-0 lead over the Philadelphia 76ers in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final, were not about to let Rose’s injury distract them from their ultimate goal of bringing an NBA title to Chicago.
“That’s part of the game,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said after Saturday’s game. “He’s had a lot of injuries this year, it’s been unfortunate but we do have more than enough to win with so whatever the circumstances are we’ll deal with it.”
Still, navigating through the playoffs without the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player may prove too much, even for a Bulls team that went a league-best 50-16 in the regular season despite playing 27 games without their top scorer.
Rose, who suffered the injury with just 82 seconds left in Saturday’s 103-91 win over the 76ers, was helped off Chicago’s United Center court after recording 23 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
“It stinks man,” said Bulls forward Kyle Korver. “It’s been such a tough year for him. He’s such a good guy and he works so hard and your heart goes out to him.”
His injury robs the NBA of a big-name player at the season’s most critical point and could impact the Bulls’ 2012-13 season depending on the timing of Rose’s return and whether his high-calibre of play is impacted by the injury.
Rose, who was sidelined during the regular season with a variety of issues including back spasms and a pulled groin, is expected to miss up to nine months recovering from the tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.
That means the 23-year-old three-time NBA All-Star will not be able to represent the United States at the July 27-August 12 London Olympics, where he would have been one of the key players on a heavily-favoured team.
Saturday, April 28
Chicago Bulls, 103 – Philadelphia 76ers, 91
Okla. City Thunder, 99 – Dallas Mavericks, 98
Sunday, April 29
San Antonio Spurs, 106 – Utah Jazz, 91
LA Lakers, 103 — Denver Nuggets, 88