TORONTO (AP) Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Thursday it's unfair to criticize guard Derrick Rose's plan to manage his injury-ravaged body, promising that the former MVP ''is going to be special again'' as he returns from two serious knee surgeries.
''He's navigating through coming back off of 2 1/2 years off,'' Thibodeau said before Rose and the Bulls faced the Toronto Raptors. ''It's a lot. I think everyone has to take a step back and be patient and let him go through this process. He's going to be special again, just be patient.''
Rose, the 2011 NBA MVP, said Tuesday that his decision to sit out several games already this season is partially based on ensuring he has a healthy life ahead, explaining that he doesn't want to be sore when attending post-retirement meetings, or his young son's college graduation.
Those comments led some to say that Rose's focus ought to be on doing whatever is necessary to help the Bulls compete for an NBA title this season, rather than his long term future.
''He's a lightning rod right now,'' Thibodeau said. ''The same people that were praising him in his MVP year are the ones that are criticizing him now and, when he starts playing great again, will be the same people praising him again.''
Rose was in the starting lineup against Toronto, just the second time this season he's played consecutive games.
''He's healthy now, so hopefully he can string some games together, go out and play as hard as he can,'' Thibodeau said.
Rose missed most of the past two seasons because of injuries to his knees, and was sidelined for two games after he sprained both ankles in a 114-108 overtime loss to Cleveland on Oct. 31. After a two-game absence, he aggravated the injuries in a Nov. 5 game at Milwaukee, and missed another two games before returning Monday against Detroit, scoring a season-high 24 points.
Thibodeau said he's told Rose not to pay attention to either criticism or praise.
''The only person he really has to answer to is himself,'' he said.
At shootaround Thursday, Rose said he was ''just being myself'' when he made the comments about his future, and said he's not bothered about the negative reaction.
''I could care less,'' Rose said.