Derrick Rose Returns

Rose’s First Practice: Hard Fouls, Old Instincts

 

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Derrick Rose was back practicing with the Chicago Bulls last winter, halfway through his 17-month rehab layoff following knee surgery. So the team’s morning session on two-a-day Saturday was a little blurred as a milestone.

What the media folks saw when the gym door opened at the tail end of practice this time, well, the whole NBA world saw before most of the Bulls’ games over the second half of last season: Rose in workout clothes, working on his shooting range and his free throws. No drama there, either.

But for a couple hours, in the Bulls’ initial practice of training camp, there were some differences – some subtle, others obvious – from what last spring mostly was shadow-boxing for Rose and his teammates.

The All-Star guard, whose May 2012 ACL surgery unexpectedly wiped out his entire 2012-13 season, stuck around for the 5-on-5 scrimmaging Saturday. Neither he nor the other players shied away from contact. He read, reacted, misfired in his timing and even made mistakes – but his instincts were triggering and he wasn’t overthinking.

“There were some hard fouls,” Rose said. “You got to get used to it. I didn’t think nothing of it. Just got up and shot the free throws.

“I was able to do a little bit more [than last season]. I was attacking a lot, getting to the line. … It’s just the way I play. I came in this league a driver, I’m going to continue to drive.”

Said Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau: “I’d say he doesn’t have to pace himself like he did. … The driving and finishing looked a lot better. And his timing’s still not there, but it’s a good start.

“The drills, working on the defense, he was fine. When we got to the scrimmage part, as it went along, he got better and better. I think the big thing, he has to get used to the contact, the physicality. Then of course, we haven’t put in our double-teams and things like that – we’re going to add that in so he gets comfortable with it.”

It’s not as if Thibodeau has posted an anti-bounty, with a fat fine for every guy who bangs into Rose. “The one big thing about him practicing last year, they got comfortable with that,” the coach said. “So they’re playing, they’re not thinking about [not hitting Derrick]. They’re going pretty hard.”

Rose said he planned to participate in Saturday’s evening session and every other scheduled practice, “pushing hard” through camp. His priorities are to boost his wind and – unrelated to his left knee – to get his legs in game shape. But after more than a year spent grinding through rehab, and that summer work in Los Angeles with peers such as Kevin Durant and Kevin Love, Rose is in stellar shape overall.

He has added a morning-and-night stretching regimen. Rose, who averaged 25.1 ppg in four seasons before sitting out 2012-13, also said he has added 10 pounds across his chest and arms, his waist now a bit smaller.

“I had workouts – don’t tell Thibs – harder than this [practice], man,” Rose said. “For real. I worked out like three times a day. So for us to actually go through practice and have water breaks and all that, that’s something I normally don’t do in my workouts.”

Like a lot of elite athletes forced by injuries to confront their physical vulnerability, Rose said he wished he knew about his body and training techniques what he has been forced to learn since the ACL blowout.

“I wish I would have learned this when I was a rookie,” said Rose, who will turn 25 Oct. 4. “People would always tell me, ‘Stretch’ and ‘Take care of your body.’ But when you’re healthy and talented the way some of these guys are … I was like, ‘I’m 22 years old, I don’t [need that.]‘ It took an injury for me to really take care of my body.”

Rose Talks, Offers Overdue Rehab Update

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CHICAGO — Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls star whose voice has been as muted during his 14-month rehab from knee surgery as his absence has been glaring and chronicled, knows there is a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk.

Sprinting the sprint, cutting the cut and leaping the leap are all better still in gauging how successful Rose and the team’s medical staff were in getting him back on the court by training camp this fall.

“Me saying it is something totally different,” the Bulls point guard said in a video interview newly posted on the team Web site. “I think me going on the court and showing ‘em will let ‘em know it was the right decision.”

Rose’s decision not to return for any portion of the 2012-13 schedule was the headline of the Bulls’ season. It defined who and what they were, as well as how far an undermanned, underdog squad could go against the likes of the Nets and the Heat in the playoffs.

It led to an emerging class of Rose critics, too, something new for the Chicago kid who previously had delivered more, sooner, than most expected. Once Rose’s rehab dragged into and through the 8-to-12-month estimate offered in May 2012, questions and even suspicions began to pop up: Is it Rose’s knee or his heart? Doesn’t he see his teammates gutting out huge upsets despite injuries of their own? How much influence does brother Reggie Rose, the player’s agent, and a fleet of adidas marketers have over the kid?

Rose’s presence in Bulls pregame warm-ups, working on his jump shot and moves to the rim, looking pretty healthy, only made people wonder more. And his near-blackout of the media – endorsed or at least tolerated by Chicago management — exacerbated the situation, because in place of Rose’s words, critics reached their own conclusions.

This sitdown with BullsTV might be a reach for the reset button.

“I didn’t want to do anything, to tell you the truth,” Rose said of media interviews in general during his layoff. “I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to rebuild my leg and be around my son [P.J.]. That was time where, me having a son, is huge. … My father wasn’t ever in my life, so he’s first now with anything.”

Scheduling sitdowns with reporters once a month to track his rehab progress wouldn’t have tampered with either his focus or his Dad time, and would have shown respect for the media that otherwise respected Rose’s challenge/ordeal. More so, it would have been good for the fan base that kept buying tickets.

If a little more accountability sapped any drama from adidas’ series of shoe commercials (“The Return”), too bad — Rose didn’t make good on that script anyway. And the Bulls’ media relations experts, working up through vice president John Paxson and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, if necessary, should have spelled that out to Rose.

But this BullsTV interview offers a fresh start. Now, instead of some random sessions with USA Today or furtive Q&A grabs in the postgame locker room in Boston, Rose needs to make himself available to reporters on an occasional basis.

Not every question got asked or answered by Bulls.com, such as:

  • How will you simulate game conditions over the summer, when you’re in Chicago, in Los Angeles or on the adidas tour through Serbia and other European destinations?
  • Did the criticism of you, your family and your business partners surprise you? Bother you? Change your view of Bulls fans?
  • When will you know you can trust — really trust — that left knee?
  • How will you cope with what most medical folks say will be ups and downs, good nights and bad, as you work your way back?
  • Specifically, how do you think the layoff has benefited your game?
  • What adjustments do you plan to make in how you play — or at least, what are you prepared to do if your explosiveness isn’t what it was?

And about a dozen more, ranging from Rose’s views on the Bulls’ draft and free-agent acquisitions to lead assistant coach Ron Adams‘ departure.

Among the questions that did get answered? Here are the highlights:

On missing the entire season: “It was hard. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through in my life. After surgery, when you start runnin’, when you have an injury like this, it’s phases you have to go through. I’m still going through my phases. I’m not done yet. But I think this is the most I’ve ever worked on my craft and the most focused I’ve ever been in my NBA career.”

On not coming back: “I’m not a selfish guy at all, but having this injury and knowing what I had to go through, and being smart, this is something that I had to be selfish with. I couldn’t worry about anyone else but myself and my health.”

On reports that he was “dominant” in practices: “When you’re in practice, of course it’s not like game-like speed unless it’s training camp. Game-like experience is totally different. Where you’ve got strategies, you’ve got this-or-that double-teams – when I play I get double-teamed a lot. We [practice] the same defense that we play in the game, so there wasn’t that many double-teams. So I was able to go around freely. In the game, I wasn’t able to take on that double-team yet.”

On his knee’s progress: “Every day I was working out like my leg is going to feel better. I was pushing myself every day. And trying to take care of my body to be out there as soon as possible. But it didn’t happen.”

On the Bulls’ season without him: “I was very, very impressed. It seemed like they were fighting for me. They saw how hard I was working at practice, just trying to rebuild my leg. All my teammates that were going through injuries, they used to tell me, ‘Don’t rush back’ just because they were going through stuff. So just to hear them say that, they knew I was trying to get back on the court as quickly as possible. They made a good run of it. When they were playing, I would tell them some things that I saw if they didn’t see. I was working with them just to show that I really cared about the team.”

On his close relationship with coach Tom Thibodeau: “With Thibs, we’re super-cool right now. We talk at least a couple times through the week. I missed his call a couple times – he hates when I do that – I’ve got to call him back. But he’s someone who loves the game almost as much as me and that’s pretty hard. If you love basketball more than I do, I have to take off my hat to you.”

On his personal goals for 2013-14: “There’s only one goal and that’s to win a championship.”

It’s good for Rose, for the Bulls and for the fans to have the team’s star and leader accessible again. He needs to stay that way.

Thibs On Rose: ‘I think He’s There Now’



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It’s a couple of months late, of course, but Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose is apparently back to being, well … Derrick Rose.

So says Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who recently worked Rose out and had rave reviews for the former MVP and All-Star point guard who missed the entire season recovering from ACL surgery.

Granted, this is the news that Bulls fans were hoping for in February, March and even early April, as they sweated out whether or not Rose would return in time to help the Bulls in their playoff push that ended at the hands of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Mid-June is obviously a little late for the Bulls to do anything but crank up the expectations for next season, what with the news that Rose is back to his old explosive self again. More from Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com:

Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose’s speed and explosiveness are back to where the former MVP feels like himself again.

“I worked him out about a week ago,” Thibodeau said in a phone conversation Thursday. “It was great.”

Rose missed the entire season rehabbing from a torn ACL in his left knee suffered during last year’s playoffs. His longer-than-expected absence, and the ensuing debate about it, was the overwhelming storyline during a challenging Bulls season that ended in a second-round loss to the Miami Heat.

Last season is over, and Thibodeau is looking to the future.

“Watching the way he’s moving now, there’s a confidence,” Thibodeau said. “[Reporters] may not have been able to see the total work he was putting in. But he was putting in an enormous amount of work each and every day. He just never got to the explosiveness he was comfortable with. I think he’s there now. He feels great, and that’s the most important thing.”

He said Rose is “running, lifting, playing and shooting. His day is full.”

Thibodeau also cleared up one bit of information that bothered me throughout the Rose playoffs/comeback drama. We kept hearing about how Rose was dominating in practice after being cleared by the Bulls’ medical staff to resume normal activity. I couldn’t imagine him being that impressive and not returning to action. Thibodeau confirmed my suspicion:

“The kid was being totally honest,” Thibodeau said. “At the end of the day, you have to respect that. He wanted to be out there very badly. But no one knew when he would be ready, including him. It was a smart decision to wait. If you’re not quite sure, and you’re going to err, err on the side of caution. That’s what he did. And now he feels great.”

While reports speculated that Rose was dominating his teammates in the gym, Thibodeau says now that wasn’t the case.

“He was practicing and he was good sometimes, but he also wasn’t able to make the kinds of plays he likes to make,” Thibodeau said. “No one is more explosive and can change direction like him. He had to be capable of doing that.

“That’s what makes him so unique, how quick and explosive he is,” Thibodeau continued. “He can jump sideways to avoid contact. He’s always hopping around. That’s a lot on your knee. You have to be comfortable doing that. He takes off and he doesn’t take long to go from securing the ball to exploding and blowing by somebody.”

The criticism of Rose seemed overblown at the time, a point that Joakim Noah, Nate Robinson and the rest of his teammates made clear during the firestorm. And all of this latest news only reinforces the point that we should have taken Rose at his word when he said he was not ready to return in a fashion he saw fit.


It’s Now Or Never For Derrick Rose

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MIAMI – The Derrick Rose Watch is in its final hours, so all that huffing and puffing that the Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat heaped onto Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series at AmericanAirlines Arena wasn’t all for naught.

It served to move Wednesday night closer to Thursday morning, which gets everything more quickly to Friday’s Game 3 tipoff, the point at which this long rehabilitative sideshow ends once and for all. Either the Bulls’ injured point guard goes for something Hollywood and steps through the darkness onto the court at United Center to a booming embrace … or he emerges again after another pregame shooting session in a suit and sits his way straight into the offseason.

Truly, it is now or it is never. There can be no middle ground.

The “never” part of that equation should have won six weeks ago but has shown itself to be a tough out. Months of daily talk shows and Twitter timelines keep alive the chatter of Rose coming back. This weekend will officially become 12 months after surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee.

The waiting game sucked most of the air out of the Bulls’ regular season – remember, the conventional wisdom suggested Rose would be back in late February or early March – and here it is, still laying claim to what at times has been a remarkable postseason precisely because of his absence.

But it all ends Friday night. Fortunately. (more…)

Missing Rose, Or What Rose Is Missing?





MIAMI – So much of this NBA season for the Chicago Bulls, especially in these playoffs, has been about missing Derrick Rose.

Not anymore. At this point, it’s all about what Derrick Rose is missing.

The script officially flipped Saturday night when the Bulls pulled off their stunning, wholly unexpected Game 7 upset of the Brooklyn Nets. Rose was there but he was there in a suit again, no more a part of what really mattered in the arena than the guy wielding the T-shirt cannon.

Wait, that’s not quite right – Rose did play a role in making it remarkable with his very uninvolvement. The Bulls did not have their leader and their superstar, again,  in circumstances that should have doomed them – and then they went about their business as they have all season. Or in Joakim Noah‘s case, with some frenzied, divine, determined intervention.

No Derrick? No problem. No problem too great, anyway.

A too-familiar sight: Chicago's Derrick Rose on the bench. (by Gary Dineen/NBAE)

A too-familiar sight: Chicago’s Derrick Rose cheering, not playing. (by Gary Dineen/NBAE)

Rose was in a suit and Kirk Hinrich was in a suit and Luol Deng was back home in Chicago, and still the Bulls beat the offensively gifted and favored Nets to advance to the playoffs’ second round. It was merely the latest in a season of highlight nights and indelible memories missed by Rose during his recovery from knee surgery last May.

He missed the victory in Miami in January in Chicago’s first meeting with the defending champions and assorted undermanned victories before and since. He missed the Bulls’ run of three straight overtime games in four nights, two on the road, two of which went their way. He missed the game at United Center in late March when the Heat, after stomping pretty much the rest of the league, had their winning streak stopped at 27 games (second-longest in NBA history) by a team, wow, still missing its star.

Because Rose and the team’s front office committed to a cautious approach to his rehab and return – the Bulls and their medical staff overseeing but ultimately empowering Rose and his advisers to make the decisions – the laconic icon hasn’t been a part of anything all season. Even as his absence has defined and made this season special for those who have been a part of it.

Now, Rose is missing this, at least four games and as many as seven against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the rest. It could have been a classic. Remember when Rose took his stand about not working his cell phone in the offseason and recruiting help by courting his competition, it came across as a direct response to the AAU buddy-ball brainstorming of James, Wade and Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010. Neither the Heat nor Rose was fully formed when the two sides met for the first time in the postseason in 2011, but the storyline now, with Rose’s very MVP-ness that year being questioned again, would have been must-see: Some guys want to play with the best, other guys want to beat the best.

The storyline, as is, is pretty compelling. It’s underdogs and Cinderella and, frankly, it’s sad. Because Rose is missing out on the full experience of what his Bulls teammates are. Guys like Rose never fully know what it feels like to be overlooked and underrated because, no matter how humble and unassuming they might be (and that’s no act with Rose), they are their teammates’ swagger. Stars like Rose don’t know what it’s like to have their chances dismissed. Stars like Rose look into fans’, friends’ and family eyes and see hope twinkling.

Maybe one time in the pros, before the end of Rose’s rookie year in 2009, he might seen doubt in people’s eyes. But then he had his coming-out party as a future NBA star, the seventh-seeded Bulls pushing the mighty Boston Celtics to seven games in the first round. Since then, Rose has been the man; when he plays and, without interruption for more than a year now, when he doesn’t.

In the end, Rose is missing a lot. Early in the Brooklyn series, Bulls forward Taj Gibson talked about Rose’s view and words from the bench. “He was just eager,” Gibson said. “He was just saying like, he can’t wait to get back, he can’t wait to play. And just critiquing the game, talking about what we needed to do, what kind of plays. He knew a lot of the sets coming out so he would just scream out plays. He was just hyped talking about good stuff.”

As frustrating as it is for Bulls and NBA fans to wonder what this Eastern Conference semifinal series might be like with Rose involved, as puzzled as they all are by his erring on the side of caution or his timidity or his whatever it is, they can assume that Rose is frustrated too. Or should be.

So don’t be disappointed by Derrick Rose. Be disappointed for him.

Rose Not Walking Through Game 7 Door


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If ever there was going to be the perfect, if overdue, moment for Derrick Rose to return to action for the Chicago Bulls, it would be a Game 7 in the NBA playoffs, with his team desperate for help, facing the Brooklyn Nets in a hostile building …

Stop. Rose won’t be walking through that door for the Bulls Saturday night, even if he does have more spring in his step than Willis Reed did 43 years ago on the other side of the East River, limping back for a Game 7 and straight into sports mythology. The Captain only stuck around long enough to hit two shots and inspire the New York Knicks to their first championship. Rose would seem to have that much in him, in what would likely be a 15-20 minutes limit whenever he actually does return to action. And of course we’re wasting our time and our typing here.

After all, Rose’s extended layoff from knee surgery last May – we’re at 51 weeks now – could have had its perfect ending in Game 6 Thursday at United Center, where a packed arena’s warm embrace for however long he lasted might have been enough to propel the Bulls into the second round already. It could have come two weeks ago, synchronized to the start of a postseason he missed last spring. It could have come last month or sometime after the All-Star break, when word began leaking out from behind the practice curtains that, in 5-on-5 scrimmaging, that the 2011 MVP was looking as good as ever.

The arc of Rose’s repair and rehabilitation from ACL surgery has gone from anticipatory to antsy to anticlimax. It has overstayed its welcome in the Windy City, like the occasional stubborn winter, and as with the Chicago Cubs’ ridiculous drought, a numbness and a whole lot of scoffing is settling in for some folks. If they did not laugh, they would cry.

But there’s more floating out there than jokes. During the Game 5 telecast Monday, TNT analyst Steve Kerr was critical of Rose for his refusal to take that last big step of rehab, testing all that work and dedication where it matters most, in an NBA game, for a team in need. Multiple Bulls players have been pushing through bruises, pain and illness, while Rose still monitors the repair of a year-old injury (April 28, 2012, to be exact).

“I know I’ve kind of changed my mind,” Kerr said on-air. “I’ve really supported the Bulls and Derrick with the way they’ve handled it. I think you err on the side of caution. But I think where the Bulls are now with this series with [backup point guard] Kirk Hinrich struggling with the calf injury — if Derrick is OK and there’s no threat to further injury, I think he’s got to play.”

It’s that kind of talk, not just from Kerr but all over sports-radio airwaves and the Internet, that has dinged Rose’s reputation. As beloved in his short career as any Chicago sports star save one, Rose’s hesitancy to play until he’s fully “comfortable” or regains “muscle memory” has some people questioning his courage, his character, his commitment, you name it. It is as irrational as it was inevitable with a layoff this long, fan stuff of impatience mixed with the coverage of the other hobbled Bulls as “gamers.”

Rose told reporters at the Bulls’ shootaround Saturday in New York that he hadn’t heard the criticism. “That’s my first time hearing about it,” he said in another too-rare media moment. “I barely turn on the TV. I’m with my son all day so that’s about it.”

None of the second-guessing is coming from the organization or his teammates. Coach Tom Thibodeau and Hinrich, as all of them have for months, gave Rose absolute votes of confidence Wednesday. Still, the Bulls and Rose failed each other by failing to keep everyone – not just themselves but the media and the fans – in the loop. They let him, his agents, his family and his sneaker partners (adidas) dictate the terms of communication, kept at a trickle, that bled away empathy and heightened suspicions. Monthly sit-downs with Bulls reporters would have provided better feedback, kept Rose’s affable personality front and center and calmed if not satisfied the locals.

The Bulls also should have avoided distractions, speculation and all this angst by shutting down Rose’s will-he-or-won’t-he return about six weeks ago. Did they really want to overlay the learning curve of his return onto their playoff preparation, risking other guys’ roles and rhythms? Did they seriously consider throwing him raw out there against a Brooklyn backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson? Would they seriously put Rose as red meat in front of the Dobermans from Miami, if they made it to the next round?

Come on. Who’s believes this stuff?

There would have been nothing wrong had Rose and the Bulls tossed the entire 2012-13 season aside and simply let everyone know the plan, assuming they had a plan. If this truly was matter of, physically and mentally waking up each day and gauging his health and his confidence, OK, fine. Even that would have gone done better if not for the elaborate, expensive series of shoe commercials – “The Return” – that made it look as if Bulls fans would be getting Rose as “Rocky” sooner rather than later.

The long, unsatisfying NBA season in Chicago is nearing an end. When Rose does come back in October, he’ll turn this all into a win-win: Show rust and people will nod, agreeing finally (and probably wrongly, since rust is part of these things whenever) that he needed another five months. Play great and the uber-cautious strategy will seem like genius, and the teeth-gnashing of this spring will fade away.

It’s just difficult for a lot of folks over the next few hours or days knowing that – with Hinrich’s calf, Luol Deng‘s illness, Joakim Noah‘s plantar fasciitis, Taj Gibson‘s knee and Nate Robinson‘s towel-and-bucket routine Thursday – the healthiest guy on the Chicago roster might be Derrick Rose.

Hinrich Iffy For Game 6, And Don’t Bother ‘Going There’ On Rose

DEERFIELD, Ill. – The timing was impeccable. As Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said for the third or fourth time that guard Kirk Hinrich‘s bruised left calf was healing, Hinrich emerged for a cluster of reporters to limp 20 yards toward the locker-room hallway at the team’s Berto Center practice facility Wednesday afternoon.

Long John Silver, Fred Sanford and Jabba The Hutt would have been glancing over their shoulders, laughing, in a foot race. If the Brooklyn Nets have anyone on their bench with whom Hinrich in his current condition can keep up in Game 6, it’s coach P.J. Carlesimo. Maybe.

So it’s a long shot Hinrich — who injured his leg in Chicago’s triple-overtime victory in Game 4 Saturday and sat out the Nets’ Game 5 victory at the Barclays Center Monday — can play Thursday night at United Center. He only ditched a walking boot Wednesday, has yet to test his left leg by running or jumping and said he would have to improve further for his “game-time decision” to go thumbs-up.

That puts instant-offense guy Nate Robinson, the team’s third preferred option at point guard after Derrick Rose and Hinrich, in the likely starter’s role again.

Thibodeau also delivered the news that forwards Luol Deng and Taj Gibson were sick and skipped the practice, further thinning the ranks if only for Wednesday. He didn’t sound optimistic about rusty veteran Rip Hamilton, who hasn’t played since the series’ opener, making an appearance in Game 6, though.

So naturally, it was time to ask about Rose. Hey, he’s moving way better than Hinrich.

“There’s always a chance,” Thibodeau said straight-faced. Then a twinkle appeared in his eyes for what would be a fresh quote on the stale subject. “Small as that might be.”

Chuckles all around. But it scarcely could get smaller at this late date. Rose — whose ACL surgery on his left knee know requires a year reference (April 28, 2012) — still hasn’t felt comfortable enough in his recovery, apparently less for physical reasons than trust and confidence in his game, to return. To do so suddenly for Game 6 or even if his teammates advance to the next round against Miami would be like turning from a standing stop onto a freeway where every other vehicle is going 80 mph, no merge lane, nothing.

That hasn’t stifled impatience and criticism from within the team’s fan base, which has watched a parade of other players — from Hinrich throughout the season and Gibson (strained knee) to center Joakim Noah‘s ongoing plantar fasciitis — gut through discomfort while less than 100 percent.

Thibodeau and Hinrich both said again that the Bulls have Rose’s back.

“We know what kind of guy he is, we know what kind of teammate he is. We don’t feel that way,” Hinrich said. “I haven’t heard one ill word said [among teammates] about it.”

Said Thibodeau: “There’s a big difference between the type of injury he’s had and all these other injuries. We certainly appreciate what all the other guys are doing. But Derrick has had a very serious injury. It requires time. He’s 24 years old. We’re not going to rush him back. When he’s completely comfortable, that’s when we want him out there. If that means we wait another game, if that means we wait till next year, so be it. We want him completely comfortable. We’re not going to make that mistake.”

Criticism from outside of Chicago tossed at its native son, one of the most competitive and popular performers ever for the city’s pro sports teams, means nothing, the Bulls coach said.

“Derrick owes it to do what’s right. And the more I’m around him, the more I’m impressed by this guys’ character. He’s not being swayed by anybody. He’s not quite there, and we made that clear to him from the beginning — we’re going to support him in every way possible. I would never question him. Ever.”

Head Vs. Heart: Bulls’ Rose, Noah Approach Injuries Differently

BROOKLYN – Chicago center Joakim Noah, nearly distraught Friday over the prospect of missing playoff games against the Nets in the city he once called home, almost was willing himself – and his aching right foot (plantar fasciitis) – to be available for the first-round series opener Saturday at the Barclays Center. Noah warmed up, appeared to be moving well and essentially was going to determine his own fate, telling the Bulls if he was capable of playing or not.

Which was fine and tough and all that. But the question then simply shifted: By passing up the opportunity to rest and recuperate Saturday, were he and the Bulls pushing questions of Noah’s health and availability onto Game 2, Game 3 and beyond?

In other words, were they robbing Peter to pay Paul, in terms of their All-Star center being around to help when they need him most. Generally, the 0-0 point in a best-of-seven series isn’t considered a critical juncture.

“The thing is, it’s the type of injury where you don’t know how he’s going to feel the next day,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said about 80 minutes before tipoff. “It’s unusual. Some guys completely tear it and feel better right away. Some guys completely tear it and they have to shut it down. He’s had it before. He’s dealt with it. We just have to see how he is tomorrow.”

In a way, Noah’s scenario in fighting through his sore right foot (he’s had plantar fasciitis issues before, by the way) offers a thumbnail glimpse at the Bulls’ greater injury situation – the knee surgery and recovery of point guard Derrick Rose.

Rose’s return, once penciled in for sometime near or after the All-Star break, has yet to occur. The 24-year-old scorer/playmaker has been cleared by doctors and, behind closed doors at practice, is said to be the best player on the floor. But he hasn’t felt quite right – possibly hesitating from a lack of confidence or trust in the repaired knee or uncomfortable with the prospect of coming back rusty and less than 100 percent. The Bulls have left the matter up to Rose, and he has erred on the side of caution.

Noah seemed to be responding more urgently to the “my team needs me” call of the postseason. His injury isn’t as severe, but his zeal to play – through pain, at the risk of causing his foot to worsen – scores him more “warrior” points than Rose gets for being more patient and more cautious.

In a city like Chicago, so deep into a season built around and delayed by Rose’s presumed return, Noah’s apparent toughness seems laudable even if it puts him down for Game 2, Game 3 or thereafter.

Rose, meanwhile, is pursuing what looks to be a wait-till-next-year strategy that, in Chicago, has been played out too many times by too many teams.

No, Bo Doesn’t Know Rose On This

CHICAGO – Bo knows Rose. But Bo Jackson doesn’t necessarily know squat when it comes to the anterior cruciate ligament surgery from which Bulls star Derrick Rose is recovering, or the timetable for Rose’s specific rehab, or the relationship between the 2011 NBA Most Valuable Player and his team.

Jackson, the amazing two-sport athlete whose NFL and MLB careers were cut short by a debilitating hip injury, threw out the ceremonial first pitch Monday at the Chicago White Sox’s opening game at U.S. Cellular Field.

That team, like the Bulls, is owned by a group headed by chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Jackson. who played two seasons with the White Sox, still lives in the Chicago suburbs. But the connections pretty much end there, as far as informing Jackson’s Rose opinions with any particular insight.

In a press box chat Monday, as reported by the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh, Jackson defended what appears to be Rose’s cautious return to NBA action. The Bulls’ point guard is in his 11th month of rehab since surgery last May 12.

“I am quite sure that Derrick is going to come back when he needs to,” Jackson [said]. “I couldn’t say either way whether he should or not. Derrick will know when it’s time to come back. I think he has handled it very well. It seems like the people who are having fits about this are you guys.

“Derrick has handled it well. He is a new dad and seems happy. Why push it? Between the media and the public pushing him, ‘he should come back, he should come back’ … what if he did come back and reinjure himself? Then you’re going to point fingers at the staff of the Bulls saying he shouldn’t have come back. You guys can’t have it both ways. Let him heal, come back home and when he comes back home, welcome him.”

With all due respect to Jackson, this one might be above his pay grade and outside his wheelhouse. More than that, he sounds like the 50-year-old former athlete that he is. He admitted that he hadn’t talked to Rose about the injury “just like I wouldn’t want anybody to talk to me about my golf game.” Can anyone imagine Jackson at age 24 or 26, though, listening to some old guy’s advice to proceed with caution, to miss more games rather than fewer or to focus on daddyhood rather than rushing yards and home runs?

It was a nice gesture by a once-in-a-generation, maybe once-in-a-lifetime athlete who gave us this and this, and who proved his toughness when he came back to play 160 games in the major leagues after having a hip replaced.

But Rose’s decision to delay his return to actual NBA competition until he feels “110 percent” is solely on him and his advisors (formal and informal). The playing-as-a-part-of-rehab stage considered so necessary by so many medical experts won’t be satisified and the rust of his long layoff won’t be flaked off until he participates in some uncertain number of games for the Bulls, whether that happens this spring or in the relative shadows of October’s preseason.

It really is not, as Rose suggested in a recent interview aside, a “Nobody-knows-but-God” thing. Nor is it a nobody-knows-but-Bo thing.

In Durability, James A Contrast To Rose, Plenty Other NBA Legends

CHICAGO – LeBron James qualified his answer even before he gave it: He’s no doctor – doesn’t even play one on TV. He has no insight into the inner workings of Derrick Rose‘s left knee or the Chicago Bulls’ decision-making process. So his views on Rose’s continuing comeback are simply as interested observer. And fan.

“I love competing against the best and he’s one of the best,” James said Wednesday morning after the Miami Heat’s shootaround at United Center. The streaking Heat are in town, looking to extend their run of consecutive victories to 28 against, when healthy, one of their primary Eastern Conference rivals.

Alas, Rose, the Bulls’ explosive point guard, will extend his streak of consecutive regular-season games missed to 70, owing to his injury in Game 1 of the playoffs last spring and his ongoing rehab both physically and psychologically. Chicago without Rose, and with a few other banged-up rotation players (Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, Richard Hamilton), will be facing a Miami team that expects star Dwyane Wade back after a two-game absence.

James doesn’t share Bulls fans’ angst or impatience over Rose’s delayed 2012-13 debut, but he said he does miss Rose as an opponent and as an entertainer.

“The NBA as a whole, as a competitor, you miss him on the floor,” James said. “Even off days, not being able to watch him out on the floor for the Bulls, it sucks. But health is No. 1 in our league. We’ll see him back soon.”

Soon, of course, is open-ended, with speculation in Chicago running from “any day now” to “the start of 2013-14 training camp.”

Echoing comments he has made previously this season, James said: “No one else is playing for him. No one else has to put on the uniform and play at a high level. He’s the guy who has to do that. When he’s confident and he’s ready, he should come back. Before that, he shouldn’t worry about it.”

Actually, James might be considered something of an authority on NBA health, when you look at his durability through 10 professional seasons. He has played in all 70 of the Heat’s games this season and 759 of a possible 792 since he got to Cleveland in 2003-04.

He has ranked in the league’s top 10 in minutes per game every season and, among active players, his career mark of 39.8 ranks No. 1. All-time, he’s sixth behind Wilt Chamberlain (45.9), Bill Russell (42.3), Oscar Robertson (42.2), Allen Iverson (41.1) and Elgin Baylor (40.0).

In terms of games, James never has played a full 82 but then, he never has missed more than a total of seven (2007-08) in a season. He missed six in his final season with the Cavs and seven, total, since taking his reliability to South Beach.

For a player climbing up the all-time ratings list, according to both tangible and intangible standards, it’s another way for James to distinguish himself. Among others on the NBA’s various Mt. Rushmores, however you carve them, it is rare for a franchise player to avoid a season of double-digit games lost to injury.

Michael Jordan played all 82 games NINE times in his career, but he was limited to just 18 games in 1985-86 when he broke his foot in his second season. Lakers great Magic Johnson missed 45 games in his second NBA season, never played in 82 and of course retired prematurely at 32. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time minutes leader (57,466) and No. 2 in games behind Robert Parish, still had seasons in which he logged only 62, 74 and 76 (twice) appearances.

L.A.’s Kobe Bryant has had four full seasons in which he played fewer than 70 games and four more between 70-80. Boston’s Larry Bird, who developed chronic back issues, played in only six games in 1988-89 and 105 of 164 games in his final two seasons. Charles Barkley, from age 29, missed 155 games over his last seven seasons. Patrick Ewing began breaking down at age 35 and missed the 1999 Finals completely.

Given their size and frames, Utah great Karl Malone might serve as James’ gold standard – the Jazz power forward played in all 82 games 10 times and had seven more seasons in which he appeared in at least 80. His Utah sidekick, John Stockton, was even more remarkably durable. Stockton played in every game 16 times, and missed only four games (all in 1989-90) in his first 12 seasons.

Rose? After appearing in 240 of a possible 246 games his first three seasons, the Bulls star played only 39 of 66 through multiple dings last season. And now he’s about to go 0-for-70, possibly 0-for-82.

So making sure he’s really, really healthy before he returns, as advised by a rival who might know more about this health stuff than he lets on, makes a lot of sense.