Stretching the Field: Bulls living in twilight zone

( - Do you hear that?

That's the sound of inevitability, the sound of the Chicago Bulls descending in the Eastern Conference standings.

Torn knee ligaments usually have that auditory effect. Bulls star point guard Derrick Rose knows the sound all too well.

Rose has to feel snake-bitten or cursed at this very moment. The former MVP of the league is dealing with another serious knee injury and an MRI confirmed Rose has a torn meniscus in his right knee. Surgery is forthcoming and this is not Rose's first time under the knife because of knee issues.

Chicago's prized floor general could probably do the surgery himself and save his team some more money because this is the third knee ailment Rose has suffered since a left ACL tear in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs. He missed the entire next season and appeared in just 10 games before going down again in November 2013 with a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Rose had been generally healthy this season, having appeared in 46 of Chicago's 57 games. The three-time All-Star told the team earlier Tuesday he was experiencing pain in the surgically repaired knee, and a subsequent MRI taken afterward revealed the magnitude of the injury.

He was scratched for one game last month for soreness in his left knee and missed four games in November with a hamstring injury.

Just over a month ago, Rose called out his teammates following a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, saying, "Everybody has to be on the same page. Until then, we're going to continue to get our (expletive) kicked. We're not communicating while we're on the floor to one another. Everybody is quiet. Trust plays a part, but communicating on defense in a team sport is huge.

"We've got to give a better effort. It seems like we're not even competing. It's (expletive) irritating."

Rose's health status has been irritating and it's been weighing on the team, which will be forced to give Aaron Brooks, Kirk Hinrich or E'Twaun Moore more minutes. Tony Snell has improved and could get extended time. It's obvious Jimmy Butler will carry the scoring load alongside Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah.

Gasol's decision to join Chicago in the offseason will be a saving grace with Rose laid up. But having Rose distribute the ball as opposed to watching from the bench is the difference between the third and sixth seed in the East.

LeBron James and the Cavaliers are currently a half game behind the Bulls in the conference standings and blood is in the water. James, though, offered his sentiments to Rose via Twitter:

"Man feel bad for D.Rose! Keep your head up homie and stay strong G!"

Rose's former college coach at Memphis and current skipper of unbeaten Kentucky John Calipari was unhappy with the news on social media:

"I'm sick over the @drose injury. He has been through so much and deserves better. Fate has intervened again for this good man."

Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook has had his share of knee problems and feels bad for Rose's situation.

"I was speechless," Westbrook told NBA TV. "It's so tough for a guy like that who plays so hard and has to go through it again and again and again."

The knee issues for Rose brings back memories of recent promising players in Brandon Roy and Greg Oden. Rose's career could end up like Roy's or Oden's, and the Bulls obviously hope another chapter of wasted talent doesn't open.

Rose understands the lengths of what it takes to recover from injury and his latest setback made it all the way to Las Vegas, where the Bulls' odds to win an NBA title went from 8-1 to 20-1. It makes perfect sense now because the Bulls are one of the few teams in the East talented enough to hang with the West.

A popular choice to represent their respective conference in the NBA Finals, the Bulls have been playing like contenders with six wins in the last seven games and are 2-0 on a seven-game homestand.

Chicago fans won't see Rose at the United Center any time soon, but at least they know what he's preparing for behind closed doors. Rose could recover faster than anyone anticipates and return for a postseason appearance.

However, the door to a top seed in the East is now ajar and it's up to the Bulls - with or without Rose - to still try to kick off the hinges come April.