Brown: Bulls title contenders with Rose

When Derrick Rose is back in the mix, Larry Brown sees big things for the Bulls the rest of the season. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Southern Methodist coach and former NBA coach Larry Brown said Thursday he believes the Chicago Bulls have the potential to compete for an NBA title when Derrick Rose returns this season.

"When (Rose) comes back, I think he's going to be on a team capable of winning it all," said the 72-year-old Brown, who is in his first season as SMU coach after 30 seasons in the NBA and ABA. "I don't want to put any pressure on the Bulls. That's not fair. But you're talking about a kid who was an MVP in a great league.

"I think they got a lot of pieces. They got a great coach (Tom Thibodeau). They got a great city, great support. It's not easy. Things have to fall in place and injuries can affect you. I certainly think the foundation is there with (Carlos) Boozer, (Joakim) Noah and (Luol) Deng and Kirk (Hinrich) and Derrick and (Taj) Gibson. They got Rip Hamilton who has won before, who I love to death.

"There are a lot of quality teams with Oklahoma City (Thunder), (San Antonio) Spurs, Miami (Heat), (New York) Knicks. There's so many quality teams. At the end of the day, (the Bulls) have a great player, great coach, great supporting cast. That gives them a pretty good chance at success."

Rose tore his ACL on April 28 and underwent surgery on May 12 with doctors saying his recovery would take 8-12 months. He is now taking full contact in practice, and Thibodeau said Wednesday he must get re-acclimated to game situations during practice. Many believe Rose will return some time after the Feb. 17 All-Star Game.

Brown credits Thibodeau and the Bulls for their handling of Rose's comeback.

"I just want him to come back healthy," Brown said. "I love what the Bulls have done with him. I love the fact he's going to be healthy enough to practice and not just throw him out there. That's an admirable thing -- thinking of the kid first. It's a remarkable story in my mind what they've been able to do in his absence."

Without Rose, the Bulls lead the Central Division and are the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race heading into Friday's game against the Brooklyn Nets.

Brown has been a fan of Rose's ever since meeting him at Memphis. Then-Memphis coach John Calipari was previously an assistant to Brown, and the two have remained friends. Brown occasionally visited Calipari at Memphis when Rose played there.

"I admire the heck out of Derrick Rose," said Brown, who led the Detroit Pistons to an NBA title in 2004. "He's one of my favorites. He'll always be one of my favorites for what kind of kid he is and how he respects the game. He's unique. He's one of the most humble kids I've been around.

"He's a great example for kids. He respects the game. He respects his teammates. He's humble as hell. I just love what he's about. I think the NBA is in such good shape because we have a lot of great young kids like him."