Go ahead and raise your hand if you thought the Chicago Bulls would own the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference nearing halfway mark of this season knowing reigning league MVP Derrick Rose was on the mend?
There is a pretty good chance not many palms are pressed to the air including some fans around Chicago. But knowing this team possesses a record of 24-16 without Rose in the mix only increases the excitement of him taking the “next step” to returning from a torn ACL.
On Tuesday, the Bulls grew closer to clearing Rose for full contact according to head coach Tom Thibodeau.
He’s been cleared for more contact so we went to the next step today," Thibodeau said.
"It’s the next step in his rehab. Everyone has to be patient. He’s doing fine. He’s playing more, practicing more. We want him to concentrate on his rehab. We want the team to continue concentrating on improvement and the next opponent. Nothing has changed.
Well, that is partially true.
The one thing that has changed is the hope of having Rose fully back and ready to contribute soon after the All-Star break. While no official return date has been set, there is room for hope knowing the work Rose has diligently put in to reach this point of his rebab process.
It was last April that Rose injured his left knee during the first game of the Eastern Conference Playoffs versus the Philadelphia 76ers. Surgery followed two weeks later and ever since May of last year, the one question has been, “when will D-Rose be back?”
Slowly but surely we are growing closer to that answer and the Bulls can’t wait to have Rose — healthy — and back on the floor. Yet there must be a sense of applied patience throughout the organization because the last thing anyone wants is to have Rose return only to further injure himself.
Chicago already has another banged-up All-Star to worry about.
Luol Deng missed his second consecutive game on Monday with a strained right hamstring and his return to action is unknown at this time as the Bulls are set to take on the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
Counting the days until Deng being 100 percent and able to contribute is one thing.
But Derrick Rose’s return is probably the most injury-laced headline anyone is focused on right now around Chicago.