CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose still isn't close to being 100 percent healthy and probably won't be for the rest of the year.
His teammates don't care.
Obviously, they want him to feel better, but at this point in the year, they'd rather have him on the floor than watch him languish on the bench. A hobbled and rusty Rose is still better than no Rose at all. That was the case on Saturday night as Rose scored 11 points and dished out eight assists in the Bulls' 93-83 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
"He was great," Bulls' guard Rip Hamilton said. "The one thing I told him before the game, I said, 'your presence is going to make a big difference in everything we do.' I felt as though it was tonight. Just him being out on the floor, regardless if he was scoring, passing or whatever, just his presence made a big difference for us."
The veteran sharpshooter knows better than most how important a star can be to a team, especially as it heads into the playoffs. Having won a title in Detroit, Hamilton understands what a team needs in order to win a championship, and he and the rest of his teammates know the Bulls won't attain their goal unless Rose is on the floor.
"We want our whole team back," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "Whoever we're missing whether it's Rip, Joakim, Booz, Derrick anyone, even from the bench, you get used to how you play. That's how we play. That's our rhythm. Everyone knows their minutes, knows when they're coming out. We keep everything kind of consistent so having him back for the next few games is really going to help everyone's rotation."
With Rose back on the floor, the Bulls are getting the emotional boost they need heading into the postseason. He is the man the rest of his teammates take its cues from.
"He looked good taking into consideration I think he played a very controlled game," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He was taking care of the ball, running the offense and just trying to get a feel for being out there again. I thought it was a good first step."
But was it a step Rose was ready for?
For as much of a lift as Rose gave the Bulls, he still looked to be like a shell of his old self. The explosiveness that has become his trademark was missing, and he did not want to drive to the rim most of the night.
"I got to the lane a little bit during this game, but my confidence wasn't that high driving the ball," Rose admitted. "Hopefully in the next couple of days it's going to get better, and you'll see me back to my usual self driving to the hole trying to get fouled and putting a lot of pressure on the defense."
Rose, who also acknowledged that he dealt with some 'throbbing' in the ankle, remains convinced he will be able to return to his old form soon.
"When the opportunity comes and I know that I'm totally healthy, I will," he said. "But until then I'm just trying to make the game easy, doing whatever it takes to win this game. Today it was me passing the ball, getting guys open, putting them in situations where they can make a great play."
For the foreseeable future, that will be Rose's main job. Until he can regain that extra burst that separated him from the rest of the NBA, Rose will continue to be a more controlled playmaker. That's fine by him as long as he can stay on the floor. Considering all the injuries he has dealt with and the fact that he played in just his fourth game in almost a month in a half, it was just a relief for the reigning MVP to be able to contribute to a victory again.
"It was good, man," he said. "My spirits are up, just being out there getting a lot of love from the fans. It brought me up. Where there's been times I felt down, but I just love the game, love being on the court. Just being with my teammates really. Just being out there having the ball in my hands, it was an unbelievable feeling."