Thibs: Bulls forthright about Rose

Derrick Rose questions are in full effect with Iman Shumpert in town. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

DEERFIELD, Ill. – It's a question posed at every Chicago Bulls pregame shootaround: Will Derrick Rose play tonight?

And every time he is asked, like he was Thursday before the Bulls play the New York Knicks later in the day, the answer is identical: "No.”

So why do the Bulls continue to go through it? Why doesn't the organization save head coach Tom Thibodeau the trouble and announce that the former MVP is done for the season? Why do they put fans through the daily waiting game, with some turning on Rose for what they seem to look at as quitting on the season?

"I think they were just being forthright,” Thibodeau said when asked why there wasn't an announcement long ago that Rose will not play this season. "That's what everyone thought. We didn't know, and we still don't know. We were just being honest.

"Obviously, you can look back and say that now, but we never felt that way. We knew it was the type of injury that takes time, so you just want to do what you feel is right and we feel like we've done that."

Adding more attention to the matter is that the red-hot Knicks roll into town with Iman Shumpert giving high-energy minutes in helping the team to a 13-game winning streak. That's the same Shumpert who also tore his ACL last April, doing it on the exact same day as Rose.

Shumpert had his surgery to repair his ACL 10 days before Rose. And he returned to action on Jan. 17 with a light test of 15 minutes against the Detroit Pistons. Shumpert has played 40 games already this season, while Rose's action comes only in practice.

"Everybody is different, and Shumpert has done a great job for them,” Thibodeau said. "The thing that Derrick has done, and this part you guys don't see, is Derrick has put a ton into his rehab. He really has. He gives you maximum effort every day. There's nothing more he could really do. Once he feels ready, he'll go. That's where it is. We feel good about our team, we do the right things we feel we have a chance against anybody.”

It's just that Rose's status hangs like a cloud over the team. How good would they be if he was eased back into action sooner? How effective could he have been in the upcoming playoffs if he was getting 15-18 minutes over the last three weeks or so?

And with so many Bulls players hit with nagging injuries late in the season, what's their motivation to return if a seemingly healthy Rose is playing it safe?

"Look, this was not unexpected,” Thibodeau said. "A player like Derrick there's going to be a lot of attention on and rightfully so. This guy has done an incredible job with his career, with this franchise, and we understand how important it is. But it would be just as important for any other player.

"When a guy has an injury like that you have to be smart about it, you have to be patient, and you have to do what you think is right.”

Earlier this week, Thibodeau essentially confirmed that Rose has been dominating at stretches during practice. So what gives? Is the coaching staff holding him back? Is Rose's confidence not where it needs to be? Is chairman Jerry Reinsdorf simply replaying all the emotions and concern he had when Michael Jordan came back from his broken foot in 1986?

Like a good offense, the Bulls have been sharing the ball on this one.

"We knew this would be a possibility all along,” Thibodeau said. "We didn't know when he would come back, other than, as I mentioned [Tuesday], Jerry made it very clear how we were going to approach it and I believe it is the right approach. That's the way we're handling it.”

Thibodeau was asked if the coaching staff is still waiting for Rose to come to them for updates on his progress.

"We've done that throughout,” Thibodeau said. "I talk to Derrick every single day and I've done that from the start of the season. He's feeling a lot better, continues to make progress. He's not quite ready, and there's nothing else you can say or do other than we want to give him all the support that he needs.

"As long as he keeps doing all the things he's doing there's nothing more that we can ask of him. He's doing everything he can. He's putting hours on hours each day into the rehab, so that's all we can do.”

So the Bulls will continue on the same course. There might be only a handful of games remaining in the regular season to get Rose at least partially up to speed before the playoffs, but nobody is saying if that will happen.

"There's no drop-dead (return) date,” Thibodeau said. "That's the thing. Whenever he's ready, he's ready. We made that clear. That's where it stands.

"Whenever he's ready. That was made clear to everybody right from the beginning.”

At least we know of one question Thibodeau will be asked after the next scheduled shootaround.