Back in 2011, Derrick Rose was on top of the basketball world. He had just made his first All-Star team, won his first MVP award, and led his Chicago Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals. That's the first time they had been there since Michael Jordan was wearing the red and black.
The good vibes continued until the first game of Chicago's playoff series with the 76ers. With less than 90 seconds left to play, Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. When he went down, so did the Bulls championship hopes. They went 1-4 in games Rose didn't play in that series, and lost to the eighth-seeded Sixers. Rose sat out the entire 2012-13 season, then returned for just 10 games the following year before tearing the meniscus in his right knee. He missed the remainder of the season.
This year, it looked like he might finally be back. Sure, there was the occasional night off for rest, or to recover from balky ankles or other lower extremity pain, but he was playing pretty often–46 out of 57 games–and pretty well, with 22.6 points in his final 14 games before the All-Star Break.
Then the news broke that Rose had torn his right meniscus again–the same injury that forced him to miss the majority of last season. And so the cycle continues: Rose is a great talent that can't seem to stay healthy. Since that injury against Philadelphia, Rose has only played in 26% of his team's games over nearly three seasons. And it's costing the Bulls dearly.
Over that same time frame, the Bulls have paid Rose $52.8 million. They've recouped just 19% of that sum–about $10 million–from insurance. NBA teams start to be reimbursed for insurance after a player misses 41 straight games with the same injury. The Bulls were reimbursed 41 games for Rose's entire missed season in 2012-13, and were reimbursed 20 games the following year, when Rose sat out the final 61 contests.
Sure, it's nice to get a little money back, but Rose has been earning about 10% of that insurance money per game over the past three seasons. He's made 56 appearances since 2011-12, racking up a hefty bill of $944,608 per game.
The Bulls aren't off the hook after this year, either. Rose stands to make $41.4 million through 2016-17, as part of the $94.8 million contract he signed after his MVP season. With this latest injury, it's going to be increasingly more difficult for him to stay on the court for 82 games. Chicago will hope he does, but there's only so much hope one city can muster before it just has to move on.