By K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune –
After practicing fully again Saturday, Derrick Rose said he’s “more than likely” returning from his groin injury Sunday to face the Knicks in New York.
Coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t commit to that fully but said Rose is “very close” and that the Bulls are optimistic about Sunday.
Rose is almost certain to return from the longest absence of his four-year career against the Knicks — whom the Bulls face again Tuesday at home.
“My groin is not bothering me,” Rose said. “I’m happy to move on. My spirits are up. I felt good out there.
“It’s really not up to (Thibodeau). It’s up to me. If I’m feeling good, I’m going to play. If I think I need some more days, I’m going to take some more days. More than likely I’ll be out there.”
Of course, that’s partly Rose’s competitiveness talking because the decision is a collaborative effort among Rose, the training and medical staff and management. Case in point, Richard Hamilton recently declared himself ready to return from his injured right shoulder and sat for two more games.
Thibodeau also indicated whenever Rose does return, it could be with restricted playing time.
“We’ll see where he is,” Thibodeau said. “He has missed quite a bit of time. Probably shorter minutes initially, but we’ll see where his conditioning is, how he’s feeling. The important thing is we want to be smart about it.”
That said, even Thibodeau, who keeps injury information to a minimum, continues to paint a positive picture regarding Rose.
“He’s good, went through the whole practice, keeps getting better,” he said. “He’s very close. We’ll see (Sunday). He just has to continue making the progress that he’s making. He has practiced well and hasn’t had problems the next day. As long as it stays that way, hopefully he’ll be ready. We’re optimistic and we’re hopeful.”
Rose has missed 12 games, which the Bulls navigated at 8-4. After missing just six in his first three seasons, Rose has missed 22 overall. The Bulls are 15-7 in those games.
“I’m not worried about my conditioning,” Rose said. “I’ve been running a lot ever since I’ve been able to run. I’ve been working out in the pool, working on my cardio.
“If I want to play a certain amount of minutes if I do choose to play, it’s up to me. I know if it’s a close game, no matter how many minutes they allow me to play, I know I’m going to probably fight somebody to go out there. But I should be all right.”
Thibodeau pointed to Rose responding quickly after returning from other injuries. Rose sounded encouraged from making explosive moves and cutting hard defensively over the last two days of workouts.
“We played one-on-one in practice and there were some isolation plays, getting to the hole, where I (jumped explosively),” Rose said. “We played three-on-three (Friday) and I was cutting a lot.
“It’s definitely been hard (sitting out). But God does everything for a reason. I really don’t know the reason, but I know it should be something good.”