The Chicago Bulls have their work cut out for them.
Though they were considered legitimate NBA title contenders a matter of months ago, the team's chances at unseating the Miami Heat and establishing themselves as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference remain in limbo until Derrick Rose returns from injury.
That's what happens when a team loses its unquestioned best player to a potentially career-threatening injury.
Yeah, the Bulls still have a talented supporting cast featuring Joakim Noah, Richard Hamilton, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng, but if they're without Rose in the fold for the majority of the 2012-13 campaign, Chicago will be hard-pressed to secure a postseason berth.
That's because this team is built around Rose.
Despite Rose's continued absence, in a recent Chicago Tribune article by K.C. Johnson, head coach Tom Thibodeau said the team's preparation and goals will remain unchanged.
Nobody knows when or if Rose will return this season. But this is certain: The Bulls won't let the situation become a distraction.
"The style of play is going to be the same," Thibodeau said. "We're not changing our attitude or approach: Defend. Rebound. Low turnover. Play inside out. Share the ball. Play to your strengths. Cover up your weaknesses. Know your job. Do your job. Stay disciplined. Whether he's here or not, that stays the same."
Thibodeau paused to point out the Bulls overcame major injuries to Boozer and Noah in his first season and injuries to Rose, Deng, Richard Hamilton and C.J. Watson last season to lead the NBA in victories.
The article also compared Rose's absence to the situations that Chicago's dynastic teams of the 1990s faced when Michael Jordan was out, but there's one major difference: Scottie Pippen was around to pick up the slack when MJ was gone.
With the possible exception of Rip Hamilton, there aren't any future Hall of Famers on the Bulls' current roster, and there certainly isn't anyone even close to Pippen's caliber around to make up for the loss of the team's franchise player.
When Rose does return to full strength, the Bulls will get back to contending for NBA titles, but until then, the reality is that they're a middle-of-the-pack team in the Eastern Conference.
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