CHICAGO (AP) — Derrick Rose isn’t wavering.
He still sees himself as a star, a cornerstone player, despite another major knee injury that brought his long-awaited return to a screeching halt. So he wasn’t quite sure what to make of the idea.
Is it time for the Chicago Bulls to move on, to abandon the idea of building around him, given his injuries?
“What can I say to that?” Rose said. Then, after a long pause, he added, “You could be a fool if you want to. Dead serious. I know I’m going to be all right.”
In fact, he’s not quite ruling out a return this season.
The superstar point guard left the door slightly open for a comeback in the playoffs if his surgically repaired right knee is healed — even though the team has said he will miss the rest of the year.
Rose tore the medial meniscus in his right knee in a game at Portland on Nov. 22. He had surgery in Chicago three days later, cutting short his comeback after he sat out last season recuperating from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
“If I’m healthy and the situation is right, I will be back playing,” Rose said Thursday when asked if he might return for the playoffs. “If I’m healthy and my meniscus is fully healed, of course I’ll be out there playing. But if it’s something totally different and the outcome is not how I would want it to be, there’s no need.”
That comment aside, the odds of a comeback this season appear to be just about nil given that the team has ruled him out.
“Right now, it’s been determined that he’s out for the season,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “So that’s the way we’re going to approach. If something changes later on, we’ll adjust then.”
The bigger issue remains how effective Rose will be whenever he makes his next return.
The MVP in 2011, he tore the ACL in his left knee in the playoff opener against Philadelphia the following year, sending top-seeded Chicago to a first-round exit. The Bulls relived their nightmare last month in Portland when Rose lost his footing while turning to get back on defense. Rose limped across the court, unable to put any weight on his knee, a huge blow for a team that thought it would challenge Miami in the Eastern Conference.
Rose is in an all-too-familiar spot, trying to recuperate. He has played in just 50 NBA games — 49 in the regular season and that lone playoff game — since the Bulls’ run to the conference finals during his MVP season, but he felt as if he was returning to form just as he went down again.
Rose was averaging 15.9 points and was shooting just over 35 percent. But he looked a little better in his final two games with 19 points in a loss at Denver and 20 against Portland.
“I was catching a rhythm of how I used to play,” he said. “I think I was getting in condition more than anything for this season. For this one to happen, just from me turning and running back down the court, there’s nothing I can say about it, nothing I can do about it, but just take it, be strong.”
Rose wondered how it could happen to him again after everything he went through. But he was also relieved he didn’t suffer an ACL tear.
Even so, he knew the injury was serious when he was being examined in Portland. He said his leg was “catching on the meniscus side, on the inside.”
“I started thinking about, ‘Why me?’ and all that stuff the day after the surgery,” Rose said.
He said meniscus tear was a “freak accident.”
“(The doctors) look at the tape, look at the film,” Rose said. “The first one (the ACL tear) could have been I put too much pressure or I put too much weight on that leg at that time. This one ... I didn’t buckle me knee or anything. I paused for a second. I was able to still run a few steps before I couldn’t walk. It just happened.”
Now, he’s going for therapy every day. He’s incorporating yoga and swimming into his rehab routine and is able to put pressure on his leg.
He said he might try to land a spot on the U.S. world championship team next summer if he’s ready, but he still won’t be playing in any pickup games. He also said he’s not about to start recruiting players to Chicago — something he hasn’t done in the past — even though the Bulls’ core could have a different look.
Luol Deng has an expiring contract and Carlos Boozer is a candidate to be amnestied. But Rose said he hasn’t thought about possible changes.
“There’s a chance I could come back so I’m just cheering them on,” he said.
For now, the Bulls are in a difficult spot. They were third in the Central division at 7-9 entering Thursday’s game against Miami, one that looked like a marquee matchup when the schedule came out. Since then, it has lost that shine.
Rose insisted he’s not finished.
“I believe that I’m a special player. I think people love the way that I just play. I don’t try to impress anyone while I’m playing or anything. I’ve just got a feel for the game. I know my story is far from done.”