Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose faces a recovery of eight months to a year from knee surgery.
The assessment by Dr. Brian Cole on Tuesday means the star point guard could return around mid-January to early February or miss next season. The doctor added there is a chance Rose could be back sooner, but "we're not going to rush it."
The Bulls had already said Rose has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Cole said there were also two tears in his meniscus cartilage.
He said Rose is "doing great," that the surgery went "extremely well" and he can still be an explosive player.
"It's impossible to predict tomorrow," Cole said. "Statistically, he should be that player and then some. That doesn't mean he's guaranteed. It's a whole lot better than we were accustomed to years ago. The ligament is one thing and the meniscus is another. Getting all the things to heal appropriately is really our goal in the early phases. Then, it's rehab, conditioning — getting his brain connected to his knee, basically."
General manager Gar Forman insisted the Bulls won't rush Rose, that they are more focused on the long term than the short-term hit they'll take without him. The GM is "hopeful" and "optimistic" his franchise player will return next season but isn't sure he will.
"In putting this team together, everything was looking at the big picture, long term," Forman said. "I think it's our job to stay focused on that and to continue to look at what we feel is a long window of opportunity to have success and that's how we'll approach it."
Rose had surgery on Saturday after being injured two weeks earlier in Chicago's playoff-opening win over Philadelphia, a major blow for a team eyeing its first championship since the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen era. The Bulls simply weren't the same without their superstar point guard and bowed out in six games, making them the fifth top seed to lose to an eighth seed.
Chicago was closing out a 103-91 victory in Game 1 and Rose was showing his MVP form when everything changed.
He came to a jump stop in the lane with about 1:20 left and his leg buckled. He went up again and passed to Carlos Boozer in midair before crashing to the court, sending a chill through the arena.
That certainly wasn't what the Bulls envisioned after capturing home-court advantage throughout the playoffs for the second straight season despite a long list of injuries. They were eyeing another big run after losing to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals last season, but with their leading scorer sidelined, they bowed out early, becoming the second No. 1 seed in as many years to fall in the first round.
Rose averaged 21.8 points and 7.9 assists, but had trouble staying healthy after capturing the MVP a year ago. He missed 27 games because of groin, back, toe, foot and ankle problems that the team does not think led to the ACL tear. Although the Bulls went 18-9 without him during the regular season, they struggled without him in the playoffs.
Making matters worse, they lost center Joakim Noah to a sprained left ankle in Game 3 and fell into a 3-1 hole before injecting some drama back into the series.
Besides the injuries to Rose, they were without Richard Hamilton for most of the year because of a variety of ailments.
Then, there's All-Star Luol Deng. He played a significant portion of the season with a torn ligament in his left wrist and has said several times that he plans to represent Great Britain at the Olympics in London.
Forman basically sidestepped questions about that, saying, "We want to sit down with him and have that conversation with him and our medical staff. I think it would be premature to speculate on anything until we've had a chance to him. Obviously, we know it's very, very important to him and we want to support our players. The biggest thing is Luol's health."
Forman also said the Bulls will exercise their contract option for next season on coach Tom Thibodeau and will try to negotiate a new deal.