Bruins

Derrick Rose may be out longer than expected

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Derrick Rose may be out longer than expected

From Comcast SportsNet
CHICAGO (AP) -- The doctor who operated on Derrick Rose's knee insists the Chicago Bulls' star can dominate again. It will take time, though. Rose faces a recovery of eight months to a year. The assessment by team physician Dr. Brian Cole on Tuesday means the 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 during a news conference at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center. "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 made an early exit, becoming the second No. 1 seed in two 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. "This could be anything from a completely random event -- which in a non-contact injury, most of the time that's what it is -- to maybe conditioning," Cole said. "We'll never know with certainty. My feeling is it's more likely than not a very random even that happened. If you watch the video, you can see ... the forces are just right to tear the ligament." He also pointed out that Rose did not tear the medial collateral ligament, making the preparation for the surgery easier. Cole said patients generally start running about three months after surgery, and trainer Fred Tedeschi said players start shooting around that time. From there, they progress to cutting activities and increase the workload from there. Whether Rose spends part of his offseason working out in Los Angeles as he usually does or stays in Chicago, Tedeschi said the Bulls will have someone with him monitoring his rehab. Cole also said Rose should play once he's ready, that he doesn't necessarily recommend sitting out the season as a precaution. "There's a lot of benefit to playing when he's safe," Cole said. "Whether he has to go 40 minutes, that's a different story. Just getting out there and playing when he's able, that's when his exponential growth is going to come. Lots of athletes go back and play at a very high level but not necessarily initially at the level they were pre-injury." The Bulls were a different team in the playoffs once Rose went down, after going 18-9 without him in the regular season. 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 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 sit down with 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.

Julien thankful for B's video tribute, "happy he can move on"

Julien thankful for B's video tribute, "happy he can move on"

BOSTON – It was the final piece of closure for former Bruins coach Claude Julien when he made his return to TD Garden for the first time as the bench boss for the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. Julien stood on the visiting bench, watched a first period video tribute of appreciation for his 10-years guiding the Bruins and then received the warm, thankful ovation from the B’s fans that still very much appreciate his efforts that resulted in a 2011 Stanley Cup title. 

Unfortunately for him and the Canadiens he also presided over a lifeless, limp effort from his Montreal club in a 4-1 loss to the Bruins where his team simply couldn’t derive any emotion or juice from his return to Boston. Julien said in both French and English that that his Habs simply “laid an egg” on the road, and that was disappointing for him given that Montreal already has their backs against the wall for a possible playoff spot. 

Instead Julien’s biggest bright spot in the game turned out to be the video tribute from the Bruins midway through the first period, for which he was greatly appreciative. 

“It’s always something that you kind of dread a little bit because it’s a little emotional, and at the same time [you’re] trying to keep your emotions intact there so you can coach a game and stuff like that. But, you know, I appreciate what they did for me,” said Julien following his second loss to the Bruins in five days. “As I said, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about this organization that gave me the opportunity to spend 10 years here. At the same time I’m kind of happy it’s over so we can move on now, but that doesn’t mean you forget what’s happened here. It’s always going to be with you. But now I’m in another chapter of my coaching career, and I’ve got to think about that.”

Julien’s counterpart, Bruce Cassidy, called the video tribute a “classy move” by the Bruins organization after the game had been settled, and there’s no doubting it was the right move for a coach that won over 400 games during his 10 years leading the Bruins. It was also the final chapter in his Bruins book as Julien now has completely moved on to his new gig guiding the Canadiens where it seems like his work is most definitely cut out for him. 

Will the real Jaguars defense please stand up?

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Will the real Jaguars defense please stand up?

FOXBORO -- Are we giving the Jaguars defense too much credit?

The numbers, on the surface, paint Jacksonville's defense as one of the best the NFL has seen in years. They finished the season as the league's top passing defense in terms of yards allowed, and they were second when it came to points allowed, total yards and sacks.

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Then there are the postseason awards that have been bestowed upon their defensive regulars. Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson have all been named Pro Bowlers. Ramsey and Campbell are First-Team All-Pros, while Bouye and Telvin Smith are Second-Teamers. Campbell is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. 

So why, then, is there this lingering feeling that the Jaguars defense isn't all it's cracked up to be? They allowed Ben Roethlisberger to heave his way to 42 points in the Divisional Round. In Week 16, they gave up 44 to Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners. Hell, Blaine Gabbert and the Cardinals put up 27 and beat them in Week 12. 

Those results don't exactly scream "all-time defense." So what is Jacksonville? Overrated? Properly rated? 

One thing is for certain: The Jags played an easy schedule. The combined winning percentage of their opponents in 2017 was a league-low 44 percent. And when it comes to the defense in particular, they had the second-easiest schedule in the league, according to Football Outsiders. It didn't hurt that they were able to play the Colts with Jacoby Brissett, the Texans before Deshaun Watson became a star and after he got hurt, and the NFL's No. 23-ranked Titans offense. Twice. Each. They also got the Ravens (No. 27 offense), Jets (No. 28), Bengals (No. 32), Browns (No. 24) and Cardinals (No. 22). Add it all up and that's nine games -- more than half their schedule -- against bottom-third NFL offenses. Two more games came against a Houston offense that featured starting quarterbacks Tom Savage and TJ Yates. 

When you dig into the analytics it's harder to find ways to poke holes in Jacksonville's credibility as a top-tier defensive unit. Pro Football Focus grades the Jags as their No. 1 defense, and it's really not close. Football Outsiders calls them their No. 1 defense in terms of DVOA. Even when you factor in some of its recent performances -- like letdowns versus the Steelers and Niners -- Jacksonville is still the league's No. 4 defense in weighted DVOA, which is adjusted so that games that were played earlier in the season are gradually less important. 

At the same time, the analytics can be occasionally unkind to the Jaguars. Football Outsiders has them ranked as one of the most inconsistent defenses in the league. According to their variance statistic, Jacksonville is the fourth most inconsistent defense in football. A deeper dive into the numbers has also located an apparent soft underbelly of the Jaguars defense. Per Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, the Jaguars are dominant against three-receiver sets -- No. 1 in the league, in fact -- but they're the No. 23 defense in the NFL when it comes to defending personnel groupings that feature one or two wide receivers. That would explain, in part, why the Titans (who Sharp rated as the least-likely team to employ three-receiver sets this season) and Niners (who went with more "21" and "12" personnel looks late in the season) were able to beat the Jaguars. 

The most difficult argument against the legitimacy of the Jaguars' defensive rankings is the talent they put on the field on a weekly basis. Their roster, defensively at least, stacks up with some of the most imposing defensive units in recent memory. The Seahawks had four First and Second-Team All-Pros on their defense in 2014. The Broncos defense had five Pro Bowlers in 2015. The Jaguars have five players who were named either All-Pros or Pro Bowlers or both this year, and they probably should've had a sixth in pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who recorded 12 sacks (eighth in the NFL) and a league-best six forced fumbles. 

The verdict? The Jaguars defense is loaded with blue-chip players. It will be the best unit the Patriots offense has seen this year. But they have been inconsistent, they have holes -- which we touched upon in this week's Quick Slants the Podcast with Jerod Mayo -- and there remains the very real possibility that Tom Brady and his teammates will light up the Gillette Stadium scoreboard on Sunday. 

Now, is Brady healthy? Good question. Will he have enough time to throw? We'll see. But if the answer to both of those questions is "yes" (or "enough"), then the Patriots should be headed to Minnesota. This Jaguars defense is very good, but it's far from inpenetrable.

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