Derrick Rose is the single most important player to his team in the NBA.
He is more valuable to the Chicago Bulls than LeBron James is to the Miami Heat, Kobe Bryant is to the Los Angeles Lakers, or Kevin Durant is to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
When Rose, the 2010-11 NBA MVP, tore his ACL in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals versus the Philadelphia 76ers, the Bulls couldn't hang on to win the series.
You'd think the No. 1 seed could still handle the No. 8 seed in the absence of the star player, but it didn't happen for the Bulls.
After surgery to repair the ACL, Rose was expected to be out of action until the All-Star break, but probably later. He admitted at Bulls Media Day on Oct. 1 that something was preventing from feeling all the way back.
"Probably when I start cutting again (I'll feel I'm back), because right now cutting is the hardest thing in the world right now to do," said Rose. "I'm scared of it. And right when I think I get that out of my system I think I'll be pretty close, where I have to prove to them that I'm ready to play. Hopefully it (doesn't) take the whole year."
Nine days later, and Rose once again brought up the idea of missing the 2012-13 season.
In an interview with NBA TV's Steve Aschburner, Rose admitted that the possibility existed he would miss the whole campaign.
The Bulls have been the No. 1 seed in the East the two seasons of Rose's ascension into greatness. Without him, it's underrated combo guard Kirk Hinrich who will take over the point.
Without Rose, the No. 1 seed in the East is a dream at best.
That doesn't change what the Bulls will be doing to get ready for the season.
"Our approach to the season isn't going to change one bit," said head coach Tom Thibodeau, who signed a four-year contract extension in the offseason.
That's great to say to the media, and Thibodeau probably believes that. The problem is, you can't take one of the best point guards in the game off a team and expect anything close to a deep run.
"I don't know where we're going to end up," acknowledged Thibodeau.
2011-12 Results: 50-16, first in Central; Lost in East quarterfinals to Philadelphia.
ADDITIONS: G Kirk Hinrich, G/F Marco Belinelli, G Nate Robinson, F Vladimir Radmanovic, G Marquis Teague, C Nazr Mohammed.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE:
PG- Kirk Hinrich SG- Rip Hamilton SF- Luol Deng PF- Carlos Boozer C- Joakim Noah
KEY RESERVES: F Taj Gibson, G/F Marco Belinelli, G Nate Robinson, F Vladimir Radmanovic.
FRONTCOURT: The Duke starting forwards are going in two different directions.
Luol Deng made his first All-Star team last season and is one of the best defensive wing men in the sport. He played the entire 2011-12 season with a wrist injury and gutted it out. Even with the wrist problem, Deng made about 37 percent of his 3-pointers.
Carlos Boozer proved he is no longer the All-Star type of player who can carry his team. When Rose went down against Philly, Boozer was good, but not great, to the tune of 13.5 points per game. He is still a solid pro, although Thibodeau benched Boozer some in the fourth quarters in favor of Taj Gibson.
Joakim Noah also got hurt in the 76ers series. He sprained his left ankle in Game 3 and tried to give it a go again in the series, but couldn't. Noah is healthy now and is a great, high-energy center. A CYO coach wouldn't instruct a kid to shoot the way Noah does, but his contribution offensively is on the pick and roll and on the offensive board.
BACKCOURT: Without Rose, Hinrich will be the starting guard, unless Thibodeau loves his versatility off the bench. Hinrich is back with the team he started his career with and is always a stout defender, who can knock down an occasional 3. Hinrich will be an admirable replacement who can't do the things Rose can.
Rip Hamilton is a machine. Long considered the most in-shape player in the NBA, Hamilton still runs through screens like his shoes are on fire. In only 28 regular-season games and in only 25 minutes a game, Hamilton still netted almost 12 PPG. He is still an elite mid-range shooter, although his defense is not there at times.
BENCH: Thibodeau stated on Media Day that he liked the new look of the bench. Backups Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer and sharp-shooter Kyle Korver are all gone.
Gibson is the anchor of the bench and is one of the game's underrated gems. He's tougher than new rope and a great rebounder on both sides of the ball. Gibson will play more minutes this season and could eclipse Boozer's production.
Vladimir Radmanovic, Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli can all shoot. Robinson needs to be calmed down some times on the floor, but he's instant offense.
Nazr Mohammed won't kill you in small doses, but he will probably play more than he should with the absence of Asik.
COACHING: Thibodeau is a genius. Long renowned as a defensive expert, Thibodeau has launched himself into the elite of the profession with the likes of Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers. Everyone on the roster buys into his defense-first scheme.
OUTLOOK: A Rose-less Bulls team is probably still a playoff team, although they won't host a first-round series. Hinrich is a pretty decent choice to replace him.
The best-case scenario is the Bulls float around .500 until Rose comes back and things click in the second half. The worst-case scenario is they flounder without Rose and the organization looks to the 2013-14 season.
The Bulls will still be an upper-echelon defensive team, but scoring will be tough to come by.
Call it faith in Thibodeau, but the Bulls might just survive a little better than most think without the most important player to his team in the league.