Everything happens for a reason. Each trial is a step toward something more sacred, a reverberating lesson that leads us closer to a place where almost everything, eventually, makes sense. At least that's what the Parks and Recreation finale taught us.
On Tuesday, seemingly out of nowhere, the Chicago Bulls announced that Derrick Rose has a torn meniscus in his knee and will undergo surgery yet again. Which begs the question: This cannot be some meaningless twist of misfortune, can it? There has to some karmic balance here; a moral, something. Part of this question is motivated by a highly encouraged (though largely futile) inclination to construct meaning out of professional sports, to play a role in the invention of myth so we can bask more deeply in its illustriousness.
But I've got nothing. And that's truly dreary because as devastating as it was, there was a comforting storybook vibe to Rose's first injury:
Derrick Rose, reigning MVP, tears his ACL in the waning minutes of the first game of the playoffs, inspiring Facebook posts from Kyle Korver, #TheReturn, an adversity plotline and a heroic fable. It was a story-enhancing speed bump.
The same could be said about his second knee injury, too: Derrick Rose, former MVP, after a season on the shelf, tears his right meniscus 10 games into his aforementioned return: Hello, Icarus.
But this latest injury? Derrick Rose tears the same meniscus, no timetable until after surgery: ??????
If there is an intertwining thread here, something to make sense of terrible luck and bad knees, it's that Rose's latest injury feels like the cherry on top of a Bulls season that's been defined by its slow lurch to reality.
Unpacking the Thibodeau vs. training staff/front office vs. roster spats has been impossible without becoming the Google Doc equivalent of Glenn Beck on a chalkboard. Measuring whether the Bulls' defensive struggles have been a product of effort or inability, whether Thibs has lost the team or the entire squad is lost, has been an exercise in futility: In the end, it's just a sobering reminder of what this team has lacked all season long.
Sure, Chicago has been making defensive strides recently, in large part because of Joakim Noah's reemergence. But their most recent wins came against a New Orleans Pelicans squad that only fell apart after Anthony Davis got hurt halfway through the game, the Orlando Magic, the Sacramento Kings, the Cleveland Cavaliers as well as depth-depleted iterations of the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks in the midst of a post-trade jumble. Other than the Cavs, those are easy pickings.
This was the fall, it seems, that should have happened years ago. It's not that the Bulls were never supposed to be resilient. It's that their resiliency was never supposed to get them very far. As is our wont, though, we mistook defensive talent for abstract effort and in Rose's first year out, the Bulls surpassed everyone's expectations. Nate Robinson was in the playoffs and he like, did things. They traded Luol Deng in the midst of their nadir and somehow things turned around. D.J. Augustin stepped into the point guard void and Mike Dunleavy proved a key spacing cog.
I remind myself of this not to say it'll happen again, that the Bulls will somehow persevere. Because we're looking at wholly different terrain than we were last year or two years ago. We're looking at a team mired in inconsistency, with constant injury concerns. We're looking at a coach who may not be here past this season. We're looking, most importantly, at a significantly less-talented defensive squad.
Dear God, we're looking into the abyss of 38 minutes per game for Kirk Hinrich.
In the end, there's just no way of knowing what happens next. The Bulls could settle into mediocrity or Noah could be primed for an MVP revival, aided by the return of Jimmy "The Superstar" Butler. Given the nature of Rose's injury and whether the doctors will have to remove or repair his meniscus, there's no timetable yet for his return. We just have to wait.
In a way, this is much of the same for a team that has spent so much time in patient endurance that patient endurance is becoming its only identity. And maybe that's the meaning of all this.