Derrick Rose Returns

Time To Shut Down Derrick Rose


CHICAGO – Derrick Rose wants to do what’s best for Derrick Rose. He has been clear about that from the start of his long, painstaking rehab from knee surgery last spring, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Chicago Bulls are going to do what’s best for Derrick Rose. That has been their default position whenever the topic has come up, which only has been every day, repeatedly, for the past 10 months.

Fans of the team should want all parties involved to do what’s best for Derrick Rose. They have been bystanders, cheerleaders and skeptics through this process, investing both money and emotions into the lengthy wait, constantly weighing the short-term against the long-term and mostly coming up stumped.

So let’s make it easy for them here and now:

The Bulls should shut down Derrick Rose till October.

Enough already. The networks and affiliates have more footage of Rose working out and shooting jump shots before Bulls games, locked in eternal preparation, than they ever will be able to use. Fans who arrive early see him out on the United Center court looking so much like the guy they remember, save for the practice gear, and then – poof! – he’s gone. They and everyone else spend much of each evening there bandying about his fate, and then some of them call talk shows or post comments on Web sites and vent as if Rose has changed his name to LeBron or something.

Where Rose’s brother Reggie once laid blame on Bulls general manager Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson for somehow contributing to this limbo with their roster management, the player himself recently thrust the timeline of his return into the hands of his deity, whose “honey-do” list already was a little long.

Sorry, but this decision – should he or shouldn’t he? – has to stay between Rose, his doctors, his coaches and the team, erring always on the side of caution.

They’re there now. Shut him down.

The Bulls have only 14 games left on their regular-season schedule. One comes tonight in Minnesota, the tail end of a back-to-back. The next comes Wednesday against the barreling locomotive that is the Miami Heat. After that, it’s down to a dozen, a small window – more of a transom, actually – for Rose to work his way into NBA game shape and pace, for his teammates to adapt, for head coach Tom Thibodeau to fight his orneriest instincts and manage Rose’s minutes for the player’s benefit rather than the team’s.

Three weeks from next weekend, the playoffs begin. Chicago is mired in that pack of five East wannabes-to-also-rans (some would say seven) who are neither good enough to seriously challenge Miami nor, with No. 9 Philadelphia sputtering at 16 games under .500, bad enough to fall out of the seedings. The Bulls look like a one-and-done team without Rose; with him, still rusty and maybe on a slightly longer minutes leash, they could push it to the second round.

That is not worth it. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and the Bulls’ other owners don’t need and shouldn’t want two or three extra home gates that badly. Fans in Chicago, who have deferred their gratification this long, surely can wait a little longer – they’re good in this town at the wait-till-next-year mantra. And Rose, when he does come back, needs to be on the floor as a recovering knee-surgery patient in the final stage of his rehab, not as a savior or a leading scorer or as the hero of a slick campaign of sneaker commercials.

Look, it was one thing when doctors’ pegged Rose’s return, on a purely physical timeline, at late February or early March. That left 20 or more games to adjust, assimilate, navigate some lows along with some highs.

It was different, too, when the Bulls were a team in waiting, all pieces in place, ready for Rose’s return to chase the same prize they’d have been eyeing had he never gotten hurt at all. But that team doesn’t exist anymore. Several of his teammates are broken down physically, most recently center Joakim Noah missing this weekend with a flare-up of some persistent plantar fasciitis. Kirk Hinrich and Richard Hamilton have been eternally banged-up. Rose himself, like others who undergo ACL procedures, always figured to need a full year or more to regain all or most of his powers.

Meanwhile, some of those not hurting physically beyond the NBA norm for March have been wrung out by the heavier load they’ve lugged in Rose’s absence. And frankly, by the moving goal posts of his return. Luol Deng wouldn’t be making any All-Star teams off his low-ebb performances this month.

Bottom line: The team he would come back to isn’t worthy of what Rose would be expected, or would try himself, to do if he returned this late. Does anyone want to see the Heat’s Dobermans set loose on Rose in his uncertain state for anywhere from four to seven games? Even a feisty George Hill, a rejuvenated Deron Williams or a tenacious Avery Bradley might be too much in a playoff situation and put Rose in harm’s way.

Compared to that, the opportunity to work his way back through eight meaningless games in October when his teammates are fresh and everyone is coming off a layoff of his own (three months if not 15) holds great appeal and all the common sense.

Shut Derrick Rose down. Now.

Sputtering Bulls Wait On Rose’s Return


HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Derrick Rose says only God knows when he’ll play. For a team that desperately needs a savior, Rose’s delayed debut can’t come soon enough.

A season without the Chicago Bulls’ electric point guard has put some hard minutes on players like Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, and made it even harder for the Bulls to score. Ranking 29th in the league in scoring at 92.7 ppg, the hardest-working team in the NBA might be on the verge of total burnout — if they’re not there already.

After a 5-8 February, Chicago is 3-6 in March, 36-31 overall after Thursday’s 99-89 home loss to Portland and tied for sixth place in the East with the Boston Celtics. Further slippage and the Bulls, just two games up on the Milwaukee Bucks in the dreaded eight-hole, could be faced with a first-round meeting against the Miami Heat.

“We got smacked,” Noah told the Chicago Tribune in assessing the loss to the Blazers, the West’s 10th-place team. “It’s really disappointing. We’re not playing great right now. It’s the final stretch and we’re not getting it done. We have to find a way.”

If the Bulls aren’t capable of scoring, they have to be able to bring their suffocating defense and that has not been the case. Portland shot 10-for-21 from the 3-point line and its 99 points is right at the average (99.4) the Bulls are allowing in March, six points more than their season average.

Road losses to playoff teams like Indiana, San Antonio and the Lakers can be reasoned away, as well as this week’s controversial home loss to Denver. But a 42-point undressing at Sacramento? And the loss to the sub-.500 Blazers, with just two road wins since Feb. 4?

How else to explain it than a team running on fumes?

Portland is the only team in the league with three players among the top 10 in minutes played. Chicago is the only other team with more than one player in the top 10. Deng logs more minutes per game (38.9) than anyone in the league. Noah ranks 12th.

Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson made welcomed returns Thursday night, although it failed to help the bottom line.

A savior might be the Bulls’ last hope to re-energize for the stretch run and the playoffs. His name is Rose. And only, well, you know who knows when, and if, he’ll play this season.

With 15 games left beginning with Saturday’s home game against Indiana, the Bulls are hoping to get a sign from above very, very soon.

Rose, Bulls Eager For Divine Intervention

CHICAGO — First it was the doctors. Then it some sort of mutual decision involving the team and the player. Then for a spell, it seemed as if the marketing execs and the shoe manufacturer might hold sway over Derrick Rose‘s return to the Chicago Bulls’ lineup from knee surgery last May.

Turns out everyone was wrong.

“Nobody knows but God,” Rose told reporters Thursday when asked, yet again, about his likely comeback date.

And The Big Guy apparently hasn’t leaked the info to his favorite blogger.

Rose’s return game remains unknown – will it be this week, before the regular season ends, sometime in the playoffs or as far away as October? – because the Bulls’ franchise point guard still doesn’t feel quite right. The good news is, he apparently is close: “It could be tomorrow and I feel like I can play the next game,” he said. The bad news is, he still is experiencing soreness in his left knee, site of his repaired anterior cruciate ligament, that prevents him from playing as instinctively and freely as he did before the injury in Chicago’s playoff opener last April 28.

“It’s still about the same where you warm up a little bit, it’s loose,” Rose said. “Then, the activity picks up and it gets back sore. Just fighting through that.”

Time would seem to be running out – the Bulls have just 15 games left after their Thursday night home clash with Portland. But Rose repeated his openness to coming back even if the playoffs have begun.

Then again, his return might sync up with the preseason rather than the postseason, with a fully healed but even more rusty Rose showing up in October.

Way back in 1996, when Stephon Marbury was introduced in Minnesota after being drafted by the Timberwolves, the Coney Island product talked about the specialness of those who play his position best. He said: “Point guards are delivered from God.”

The Bulls were hoping more FedEx than parcel post.

Mental Side of Rose’s Rehabilitation, Comeback Always Loomed Large


Ten months to the day since Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose had the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, he said he physically is capable of playing again.

Mentally? That’s different.

Rose spoke with Bulls beat reporters Tuesday, their second consecutive off day in Los Angeles, prepping for their game at Sacramento Wednesday night. That wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal – except that the strategy of keeping him away from microphones and recorders since his devastating leg injury in Game 1 of the playoffs last spring is responsible for a lot of the recent and needless drama around the one-time MVP point guard.

Had Rose worked with the Bulls to provide brief, periodic updates – say, monthly – on his rehab, his physical progress and his feelings about it all, rumors and speculation wouldn’t have had any vacuum to fill. Fans and media would have heard Rose’s views on the Bulls’ exploits without him, and management’s roster-building, directly from him. The team wouldn’t have had to make it known – whether leaked or more innocently confirmed – via an unnamed source that Bulls medical personnel had signed off on the physical part of Rose’s recovery and that he was at no greater risk of re-injury than of the initial ACL tear.

Instead, Rose was kept at arm’s length from actual communication. A stray USA Today story bubbled up in February, followed a few days later by a frenzied, visitors dressing room huddle in Boston and, lately, a couple of quick chats relayed by network sideline reporters.

All those things did were arouse suspicions, dial up frustrations and muddy the uncertainty on all sides.

So this was better, this brief session in L.A. Even if the news was neutral at best.

Bottom line: Rose might feel ready, but that doesn’t mean he feels ready. This is about his head as much as his knee. As Nick Friedell of reported:

“I think I can do everything, it’s just me having the confidence to do it,” Rose said before practice. “Just me feeling normal.”

Rose tore his ACL on April 28 and underwent surgery on May 12.

“I really don’t know [about a return this season],” Rose said. “I’m just like you all where I’m waiting till that day where I feel normal.

“Until then I would just wait. I haven’t had any pressure from the organization and no one else to push me to go out there and play. My teammates have been doing great with just playing hard for me. They’re still out there playing hard, fighting, so that’s a good sign and we’re winning games, so I’m not worried about anything right now.”

Rose also said there is no date beyond which he would consider it too late to return this season – which probably isn’t realistic, as we explained here. Anything that would leave too short of a runway before the postseason – for the Bulls and Rose to reacquaint fully – could end up as more of a distraction or disruption. Weighing that possible outcome against five or six more months of prep work, rust-flaking and trust-building in the knee, would seem an easy choice.

As for acknowledging that this now is a mental challenge, shame on anyone who translates that as some sort of weakness on Rose’s part. An athlete playing on instinct, with abandon, without undue concern for his fitness or limitations, is at the heart of sports’ appeal. Rose’s situation is complicated by the load he carried for Chicago prior to his injury, as their lone superstar and bailout player at crunch time.

Combine that with the fact that he never has had to be anything less than marvelous on a basketball court – never faced a minutes leash, never doubted his physical tools – and  getting back to that confident place he needs to be is no small trek.

If the worst-case scenario for the Bulls and their fans, shaped by the rumors, was an unhappy and unrealistic Rose, intentionally holding back because he’s skeptical the team could go deep into the playoffs, the best-case scenario now appears to be: Rose coming off an exposure to Kryptonite, not quite able to summon his powers yet, feeling out of sync and maybe even, sincerely, a little scared.

Either of those could keep him out till October (which, had they staked out that likelihood from the start, would be going down fine now).

See how much better it is, though, with communication?

For Rose, Bulls, The Clock Is Ticking


At some point – and we already might have passed that point – Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls essentially have this comeback business decided for them.

Not by Rose’s physical recovery from ACL surgery on his left knee. Not by the Bulls’ level of play and quality of supporting cast, as suggested by Rose’s brother Reggie last month. Not by any psychological trepidation that might linger longer than physiological concerns or by a bit of hurried bravado from Rose in trying to demonstrate that trepidation doesn’t exist.

No, the prospects of Rose coming back to the Bulls for any part of the 2012-13 NBA season will be dictated by the calendar and the schedule.

And since we all just lost an hour last night, the deadline leapt a little closer.

Let’s break this down in bite-size pieces, taking a look at just how much of the remaining regular season Rose might need to make a spring return, rather than something next fall, worth everyone’s while.

  • 0-5 games: Now that would just be silly. If Rose were to come back that late – with a week or less left in the season – he wouldn’t have time to flake off the inevitable rust of what would be a 50-week layoff. His and the team’s agenda would be so out of whack as to undermine each other. Make no mistake, Rose’s return will be disruptive to the Bulls both on and off the court, whenever it happens. They need to get it under control and mostly tucked away before (or after) they’re all counting losses four at a time.
  • 6-10 games: Still wouldn’t seem to be nearly enough for the former All-Star point guard to cope with, then extend the minutes leash he’ll be on for some time upon his return. Chicago’s offense would be jammed onto a learning curve, no matter how many times the Bulls claim they’re playing the same way with Nate Robinson, Kirk Hinirch or whomever running the point. Also, a 10-game project would put Rose’s announced return on or near April 1, which could heighten rather than alleviate the disbelief.
  • 11-15 games: Coming back on March 23 against Indiana at United Center would give Rose exactly four weeks until the first weekend of the playoffs. That would provide him and his teammates with 15 games to get reacquainted on the court. Careful with that number, though – it has special significance around the Bulls. When Michael Jordan came back in his second season from a broken foot, he did so with 15 games to go. Chicago went 6-9 as their young star strained at his own minutes limit, but it still made the playoffs, where Jordan scored a breathtaking 63 points in Game 2 of the three-and-out first round against Boston. There might be too much mythology around 15 for Rose or the Bulls to flirt with that.
  • 16-20 games: Oops, too late for the max anyway. Assuming Rose doesn’t make a Willis Reed-like surprise appearance Sunday afternoon, when the Bulls face the Lakers at Staples Center on ABC, there will be only 19 games left by the time they play at Sacramento Wednesday. A weeknight game against the lowly Kings, with a 10 o’clock ET tipoff from the West Coast and only League Pass beaming the game beyond Sacramento’s and Chicago’s usual viewing audience? That seems pretty Tom Thibodeau-friendly for Rose to dip his toe into the playing waters.

Unless it happens Friday at Golden State. Or on the Bulls’ three-game homestand that follows. Or, of course, not at all.

When Reggie Rose muddied the water of his brother’s comeback with his criticism of Bulls management after the NBA trade deadline, Derrick’s physical and even mental return no longer were the sole determinants of his comeback. And once went big with a “team source” announcing (even though it had been implicit in his return to 5-on-5 practicing) that Rose had been cleared medically – as in, officially deemed to not be at risk of re-injury – the Bulls, admit it or not, put pressure on their franchise guy. Pressure to not look scared, to not be a perfectionist about his early-return performances and to not appear to be assessing the club’s playoff chances, rather than concentrating solely on his knee and game.

Now there’s added pressure, from the calendar.

Rose Return A Slam Dunk Away?


HANG TIME, Texas — Lace up the adidas. Cue the music. Put the Heat, Pacers and Knicks on high alert.

It looks like The Return of Derrick Rose is getting ready to jump from very cool TV commercial to red hot reality.

According to Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago, Rose’s doctor has given him clearance to return to the Bulls’ lineup. Of course, like most of us, he’ll be using the “left-foot dunk test” to make his final decision.

Rose, who had surgery to repair a tear to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on May 12, has been videotaped dunking off each foot, but more casually than he would during a game. A source said that although he has been practicing and scrimmaging hard, he told the Bulls that until he feels “in his mind” he can confidently dunk off his left foot in a game situation, he is not 100 percent mentally ready to return to competition.

The team is not pressuring Rose, the source said, but the Bulls are confident he will return this season and are still hoping for a mid-March return, which would mark 10 months after his surgery. The Bulls play at Golden State on March 15.

The source said the team has been assured by Rose’s doctor that there is no more chance of the former MVP getting injured upon his return than anyone else and that the doctor told the Bulls that physically “he can play now.” Rose is now dealing with the psychological side of trusting his body.”

Since Rose collapsed in a heap at the end of Game 1 of last year’s playoffs, it has always been most prudent for the Bulls to take the long view for the benefit of their MVP, All-Star guard’s career, not to mention the five-year, $94-million investment that was made with his 2011 contract extension. But over the past month, there have been dramatic swings in the situation as word got out that Rose was making solid progress.

Even as Rose has been taking part in 5-on-5 scrimmages with his teammates over the past three weeks, he also raised the possibility of not returning at all this season when he last spoke with reporters on Feb. 13. Then his brother Reggie told ESPNChicago that the team’s failure to improve the roster would be a “big factor” in Rose’s return. Derrick Rose said he did not share his brother’s sentiments.

Though the Bulls are currently in sixth place in the playoff race, a return by a fully recovered Rose changes the entire landscape of the Eastern Conference, vaulting them clearly into that second tier of contenders with the Pacers and Knicks and could even make LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the defending champion Heat sit up and take notice.

Once he gets that left-footed dunk down comfortably, it’s time for the next step. The Return of Derrick Rose isn’t the end of the road, just the beginning of a new story.

Sixers’ Collins Urges Patience With Rose

CHICAGO – The symmetry wasn’t lost on Doug Collins. Ten months ago, he and his Philadelphia 76ers team were walking the same halls, dressing in the same stalls, taking to the same United Center court for a game that would be, and remains, Derrick Rose‘s last. The Chicago Bulls’ electric point guard blew out the ACL in his left knee late in Game 1, Day 1, of the 2012 NBA playoffs.

The Sixers had been back in town in December, but their game Thursday night was the one that fit the rehab timeline and stirred up a little déjà vu. Rose got hurt on April 28. Here it was, 10 months later. Exactly.

“Derrick, I thought for sure he was going to play tonight,” Collins said about 90 minutes before tipoff. “Y’know, got hurt against Philadelphia, come back against Philadelphia. Game on TNT. I could just see him running out, y’know, with the adidas commercial tonight.”

No such luck. While few around the team would put it past the Bulls’ inner circle to spring Rose back into action as a surprise – coach Tom Thibodeau is notorious for his “game-time decisions” – his sidelined All-Star point guard again was on the inactive list. Same with Philadelphia center Andrew Bynum, the alleged game-changing big man who has played precisely as many minutes this season as Rose. Bynum remains out with bilateral knee bone bruises – good thing he only has two legs – and, with free agency looming this summer, is at risk of a phantom Philly season.

Some have wondered if a recent Bulls slump might be related to the distraction of waiting for Rose. Collins’ team has been waiting, too, but under different circumstances.

“We traded three guys to get a guy who hasn’t played at all this year,” said Collins, without naming Andre Iguodala, Mo Harkless and Nikola Vucevic, helpful pieces in Denver and Orlando. “The Bulls have a player who’s injured but he’s been here the whole time. So the dynamics are a little different. We gave up a lot in that trade, and that’s been tough.”

As a player with Philadephia in the 1970s, Collins battled leg injuries, with some speculating that he might have hurried back too soon. That led to more Rose questions, though his “hurrying back” might mean October.

“The Chicago Bulls have a tremendous investment in Derrick Rose. You want to make sure that this young guy is going to be ready to go,” Collins said. “We take a guy like Adrian Peterson and we say, ‘This guy rehabbed and was back and was playing football … and you kind of expect everybody to have the same timetable.’ Knees are different. Every player is different. Everybody’s game is different.”

Anyone who recalls Rose’s injury 10 months ago, when he came to a jump stop, then damaged his leg as he exploded up, can understand what Collins said next.

“Derrick is an explosive player. He plays in the lane. He’s landing in a lot of bodies, in a lot of congestion,” the coach said. “More important, he’s going to have to be very confident when he plays, about being able to explode off that leg, being able to come down in a crowd and do the things he has to do.

“[Chicago team chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf and the Bulls organization are not short-sighted people. They don’t do that. They view the big picture. I think they feel they have a franchise that has a chance to be good for a long, long time. And Derrick Rose is the guy who is going to make that special.”

Brother’s Remarks Spark Doubts Of Rose’s Comeback Motives


– Impatience with Derrick Rose‘s injury is one thing.

Impatience with Derrick Rose himself, that’s quite another.

It’s also a new and potentially unnerving chapter in this city’s unabashed love affair with the Chicago Bulls’ All-Star point guard and humble native son.

The long wait for Rose to return from surgery in May on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee had ground along uneventfully for most of the past nine months. But if Rose’s comments in a couple of interviews last week cracked open the door that something other than his physical condition might dictate his return – or whether he plays at all in 2012-13 – his brother Reggie kicked that particular door down Thursday.

Expressing frustration that the Bulls haven’t significantly upgraded their roster since before his brother went down in Game 1 of the playoffs last spring, Reggie Rose told that the team’s roster could be a “big factor” in Rose’s decision whether to return this season. “It’s frustrating to see my brother play his heart and soul out for the team and them not put anything around him,” Reggie Rose said. He said he was speaking for himself, not his younger brother, but the two are tight and Reggie is known as the Bulls guard’s “manager.”

Reggie Rose acknowledged the All-Star seasons that forward Luol Deng and center Joakim Noah have had. “But you need more than that,” he said. “You have to put together pieces to your main piece. The players can only do so much. It’s up to the organization to make them better.”

The older brother was frustrated too that the Bulls made no moves at the NBA trade deadline Thursday, though truth be told, had they done anything, they might have shipped out veteran shooting guard Richard Hamilton to reduce their payroll. The Bulls are carrying salaries of about $74 million, which puts them both beyond the salary cap and into luxury-tax territory.

Many Bulls fans have bemoaned management’s apparent priority of finances over basketball – letting center Omer Asik leave as a restricted free agent last summer, for example, or their overhaul of the bench. They still see Rose having to carry too much of the burden, and drawing too much defensive attention, when he does come back. (more…)

Blogtable: What To Do With Rose

A sight Chicago fans would like to forget, last April. (By Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

A sight Chicago fans would like to forget, last April. (By Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Week 17: Playoff-bound team in trouble | Who can stop the Heat? | Do you want Derrick Rose back at 80%?

If you’re a Bulls fan, do you want Derrick Rose back at 80 percent?

Steve Aschburner: Absolutely. The Bulls need to get Derrick Rose back on the court ASAP — with “possible” defined as the point from which their doctors see no greater chance of Rose re-injuring his left knee than when he originally tore that ACL. Of course he won’t be 100 percent and of course his percentage of ability could rise, fall and loop back on itself multiple times — 80 one night, 85 the next, 70 the night after that — before he’s back to the Rose of old. But there’s a point in any rehab when the only remaining step is live competition, which eventually leads a player to trust the surgical fix. Whatever learning curve the point guard and the Bulls have to travel in re-acclimating to each other, they’d be better off traveling along it now. As for those cynical calculations that say, “If Chicago can’t win the title in 2013, why bother rushing him back?” that shouldn’t be muddying a strictly physical assessment. Doesn’t mean Bulls management or Rose’s agents/marketers aren’t doing it, but they shouldn’t be.

Fran Blinebury: Rose has said that he is not coming at back “80 percent.” In fact, he said he wants to be 110 percent, so the only question would be about his math comprehension. Yes, if he’s healthy, I want him back now. You don’t ever throw away a prime season of a superstar’s career. You never know what’s going to happen. Injuries? Upsets? If Rose is back and they’re in it, they can win it. He plays.

Jeff CaplanIf Rose is 80 percent, forget about it. Now, 100 percent physically, and with 100 percent psychological trust in his knee is a totally difference scenario. But, 80 percent? No. I just don’t see the Bulls being able to knock off Miami if he’s not fully trusting the knee and able to perform at an MVP-caliber level, because that’s what the Bulls will need. He’s too young, too talented, owed too much money to risk further injury this season. If he’s not 100 percent, see ya next year. Seems even Derrick exhibited this sentiment when he said last week that he might sit it out if he doesn’t feel right.

Scott Howard-CooperI’ll take him back if he’s at 80 percent in terms of conditioning and timing, and then be patient as he gets to full speed. But not 80 percent healed. Don’t increase the chances of aggravating the injury or, worse, turning it into missed games for next season as well. Rose obviously makes a difference, even at less than full strength. That’s why he shouldn’t come back unless he is healed.

John Schuhmann: I would always defer to the doctors and make sure that he’s not risking further injury by playing. But I would want him to come back this season if all is clear. And it’s not just about the Bulls’ chances of winning a playoff series or two. I think that any games that he gets under his belt this season can help his post-injury confidence and rhythm going forward.

Sekou SmithI don’t want him back at 80 percent. It might make a little difference, but the Bulls aren’t going to knock off the Heat with Rose at 100 percent. This is the face of the franchise we’re talking about, the backbone of Chicago’s basketball identity for years to come. There is no reason to rush Rose back any sooner than he’s physically, mentally and emotionally ready to play at his highest level. An early return is not necessary. The Bulls have shown themselves to be much more than the one-man show some assumed they were when Rose was winning his MVP trophy and they were piling up the best record in the Eastern Conference. They have two other All-Stars now in Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. They have one of the best coaches in basketball in Tom Thibodeau. They can manage the rest of this season without Rose, if need be.

Rose: I Could Miss 2012-13 Season

The Eastern Conference playoff picture shuddered a little bit late Wednesday night, and it had nothing to do with the final horns or scoreboards from games played in Boston, Indiana, New York, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Detroit or even Cleveland.

Derrick Rose opened the door to doubts after the Chicago Bulls’ loss to the Celtics at TD Garden. Doubts about the condition of his leg, doubts about his return date, doubts as to whether the Bulls and the NBA will see him back at all in 2012-13.

Speaking with traveling beat writers for the first time since training camp, Rose made it sound as if his prospects for returning – next week, next month or at all over the regular season’s final two months – still are largely unknown. He made it clear that he would have the final say but then sounded almost at peace with the possibility of not playing again until October.

“I really don’t know,” Rose said when asked about his timeline to return. “I’m feeling good, but if it was to where it’s taking me a long time and I’m still not feeling right, I won’t mind missing this year.”

This flies in the face of the conventional wisdom, at least around Chicago, which presumed Rose to be on or ahead of schedule and straining at a management-and doctor-held leash to get back in the lineup and boost the Bulls’ toward a postseason run. The NBA’s MVP in 2011 said early in the four-minute interview that he had experienced no setbacks in his regimen and recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament last May 12. But moments later he acknowledged “my leg still isn’t feeling right.” And despite some locker room chatter to the contrary in recent weeks, Rose said that he still cannot dunk.

So as much as he would like to be back on the floor yesterday, playing with abandon at United Center and shaking rust off his assorted skills, the 24-year-old native of Chicago’s South Side seemed at peace with a long view. While Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been preaching patience to anyone who has asked, Rose now sounds like he’s urging a little caution.

“I would love to [play],” he said. “That’s why I pushed my rehab and my workouts so hard. I’m trying to get back on the court as quickly as possible. But if I have anything lingering on, there’s no point.”

This has to feel like a bucket of cold water for Bulls fans. Many had pointed to All-Star Weekend as the end of Rose’s injury exile, their hopes high that he would be back when the team reconvened after the break. Others circled the end of February or sometime in March. Now they’re learning that the correct answer might be d) None of the above.

Rose played in only 39 of Chicago’s games last season, missing 27 in the post-lockout schedule with a variety of ailments. Then he blew out his left ACL late in Game 1 of the first-round series against Philadelphia.

Despite the remarkable season of NFL MVP Adrian Peterson – the Minnesota Vikings running back rushed for 2,097 yards in 2012 in his first season back from ACL surgery – many consider the recovery to be a true two-year process from incident to full capabilities. It’s likely that Rose, whenever he does return, will have ups and downs in performance and pain.

Even that has been enough to excite Bulls fans, won over by Thibodeau’s defensive teachings and the team’s work ethic to the point that Rose at 80 or even 70 percent might seem enough to challenge Miami, Indiana or anyone else in the East.

But Rose at zero percent, in terms of being active, available and effective? Nah, not so much.

“It’s exciting to know that all my hard work is going to pay off one day,” he said last night. “I just don’t know when.”