By Rob Mahoney
The Bulls are defined by the absence of Derrick Rose. Their losses are typically attributable to a lack of offensive creation, symbolized by the glaring hole in the lineup where Rose used to be. The bench is distorted a bit because of the necessities created by Rose's unavailability, and coach Tom Thibodeau's lineup construction in general requires a greater reliance on any and all offensive talent that the Bulls could acquire, solely in the name of compensating for what was lost.
But soon enough, everything that the Bulls (8-7) do may be brought back to order. According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Rose is closing in on his return to practice:
According to an NBA source, while ‘‘The Return’’ to the court for NBA games is still up in the air for Rose, the all-everything point guard could be just weeks away from practicing with the Bulls again after surgery on his left anterior cruciate ligament last May.
Rose has been expected to be able to play in games by February, but that has been inferred more than actually stated. Even if the Bulls receive the ultimate Christmas present of getting him back on the practice court just before Dec. 25, it doesn’t mean he’s necessarily ahead of that February schedule -- or behind it.
Cowley makes some much-needed clarifications in his report regarding what this news actually means. The first is noted above in the concession that this revelation -- while relatively optimistic -- doesn't in itself indicate anything about Rose's projected schedule of recovery. There's also a confirmation (via general manager Gar Forman) that there is no date yet associated with Rose's return to either practice or game action, making the "weeks away" estimate seem all the more nebulous. Still, the fact that Rose has now been running sprints and cuts for the past two weeks is worth something, and does at least suggest that the former MVP may soon be ready for non-contact basketball work or conservative drilling. That alone won't get Chicago on course, but the Bulls' (and Rose's) patience throughout this ordeal has been admirable. Even with the knowledge that Rose is the key to Chicago's contention, neither team nor player has strived for anything but complete diligence in Rose's rehabilitation. We shouldn't expect that to change now, even with Rose's return in sight.