After Derrick Rose went down for the second time in less than two years, early reports discussed the lull and disappointment inside the Chicago Bulls locker room.
Ten games into his comeback from an ACL tear in his left knee, the point guard ripped up the meniscus in his right knee last week in Portland, and the Bulls have already ruled him out for the rest of the season.
The 2010-11 MVP’s rehab is expected to last at least six months, and any chances of Chicago making a championship run have likely dissipated.
But the Bulls apparently have a positive attitude, with much of the hope resting on forward Luol Deng.
According to USA Today, the Bulls have now penciled their leading scorer into their long term plans. A free agent-to-be in the summer, Deng has been linked to numerous trade rumors over the years and it was unclear if the Bulls wanted to make a further commitment. Deng’s contract demands likely fall in the $15 million to $16 million range, and that’s just within the first two or three years of any extension.
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The same report said while Deng’s expiring contract is a huge trade chip, both he and the Bulls want to continue their relationship. Deng has doubled as Chicago’s best perimeter defender and first or second offensive option since he was taken seventh overall in the 2004 NBA Draft.
Another scenario suggested by NBA.com’s David Aldridge, has Chicago allowing Deng to walk next summer and using the amnesty clause on the final year and $16.8 million remaining on power forward Carlos Boozer’s deal. The Bulls have the league’s fourth highest payroll this season, with Rose and Boozer making up 40 percent.
Both those moves and a trade package of guard Kirk Hinrich and the 2014 first-round pick obtained from the Charlotte Bobcats could be enough to make Chicago big players in free agency next summer and in 2015. Other than Deng, Hinrich represents a solid veteran capable of helping a contender and a $4 million expiring contract. The pick, which the Bulls keep as long as it’s out of the top 10, would be a huge boon to any rebuilding bottom dweller.
Or Chicago could hold on to all their assets and await Rose’s second comeback. The Bulls have shown they can get out of the first round of the playoffs with solid defense and rebounding without Rose, so the chance of standing pat on any moves could be the most likely scenario.