Derrick Rose injury: Taj Gibson, Carlos Boozer hoping Bulls star returns for playoffs

USA TODAY Sports

Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer are holding out hope Derrick Rose can return for the playoffs.

Derrick Rose tore his ACL 353 days ago -- if you ever lose count, here's a handy website to help you remember. Rose returned to full contact practices on the last day of January. On March 9, ESPN Chicago reported doctors had cleared him to play. Ever since, the Bulls and their fans have been locked up in a waiting game. We're waiting for Rose to clear his supposed mental hurdle, waiting for him to feel 100 percent so he can take the next step of his rehab and return to an NBA game.

It's becoming clear that the Bulls are taking a very sensitive approach to all of this, not pressuring Rose to return even though reports say he's dominating practices. Every time Rose throws down an impressive dunk off his left leg in warmups, something that seems to be happening before nearly every game at this point, people start to wonder. What is taking Derrick Rose so long?

Truth be told, I've been resigned to Rose not returning this season for weeks. Apparently his teammates are still holding onto hope.

Taj Gibson returned on Monday vs. the Magic after missing seven games with a knee injury. Gibson told reporters he still believes there's a chance Rose could return for the playoffs.

"We feel like that every day," Gibson said. "He works out with us, he practices with us and it's like he never left. But it's just different when the game comes. We're still patient knowing that he could possibly play one of the games coming up but until that time we have to just stay sharp and be ready (for) whenever he's ready to come back."

Gibson said there are still times he looks around the floor and wonders about what could be if Rose were there.

"Without a doubt," Gibson said. "Without a doubt. Because we really beat a lot of good teams this year and a couple of games we blew them out. With Derrick, he just gives us that extra edge. He's a closer, really. He's our closer. For him to be in late, I remember a lot of games late we had to finish the game, he had to just dominate, finish the game for us.

"Just to have that kind of aspect and have a guard that can create his own shot and help others get their own shot, that would just put us over the hump even more."

Carlos Boozer isn't counting out Rose yet, either.

"We can't worry about all that," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said of Rose's status. "We just got to worry about what's in front of us. He's doing his job on what he has to do. We're doing our job on what we have to do and if he comes back ... whew, it would be awesome. If he doesn't then we got to go with what we got."

Boozer still believes there's a chance Rose will play and that's why he's still holding on to the possibility of a return.

"Absolutely," Boozer said. "I don't know why we wouldn't. Absolutely. Because he makes that big of a difference. I'll put it quite frankly, he makes that big of a difference."

It's interesting (and surprise, at least to me) that Gibson and Boozer would say something like this, given that all signs are pointing to Rose missing the entire season. It could also go to show just how much the organization is being kept in the dark right now. The Bulls have supported Rose throughout the entire ordeal, but Rose's refusal to shutdown his rehab completely has left a sliver of hope.

Would the Bulls really bring back Rose for the playoffs, when intensity and physicality reach an all-time high? It seems like it could be a bad move. Then again, Rose certainly appears healthy enough to play right now. He has for some time. If the Bulls end up with the No. 6 seed, they'll be the underdogs against the Pacers. But if Rose returns....

Management won't rule Rose out for this season, either. Gar Forman was on the Waddle and Silvy Show on ESPN 1000 on Thursday and said the team is leaving open the possibility that Rose will return for the postseason. When asked if the Bulls are ready to shut Rose down, Forman responded:

"No, because he continues to make progress. The positive thing in all of this is that there's never been a setback. He continues to make progress. You can see it now week-to-week, as he continues to get more confidence and gets that explosiveness back and some of those things. We continue to visit about it on a daily basis, as far as where he's at and how he feels. How are doctors and trainers feel and what we're seeing on the floor. When we all feel that he's 100 percent, he'll return. Part of the rehab is getting back on the floor, that's going to be the next step. When he feels we're at that place, we'll take the next step.

Forman also talked about the original 8-12 month timetable, something Rose is coming very close to passing up. It's good to hear Forman say there hasn't been a setback. It's interesting that he notes the next step in his rehabilitation process is returning to the floor.

Of course it is, but over the last few months the organization has been walking on glass with Rose so not to piss him off. The Bulls know the development of Jimmy Butler means the team should be very formidable next season. If it doesn't work out, they'll have flexibility to improve the team in the 2014 offseason.

But it's all dependent on Rose and his happiness with the organization. It's hard blame Taj and Boozer for applying even a little public pressure on Rose after basically every member of the Bulls has played through injuries this season. At a certain point, do Rose's teammates deserve to know whether he's in or out? No one will say that for sure, but it isn't a tough argument to make.

Truth be told, we've been at the same place with Rose for months now. Everyone is waiting until Rose feels like he's ready. It appears like that won't be until next season, but it's hard to fault his teammates for holding out hope for the impending playoffs.

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