DEERFIELD, Ill. – Although he wasn't on the premises Thursday, Derrick Rose remained the topic of conversation at the Berto Center, one day after the Chicago Bulls' season ended in an Eastern Conference semifinals defeat to the Miami Heat.
Rose and Joakim Noah had permission to skip coach Tom Thibodeau's final meeting and both reportedly remained in Florida.
By the time Thibodeau welcomes back players toward the end of summer to begin preparations for the 2013-14 season, Rose figures to be on hand an active member of the team again.
For most of the final two months of this season, Rose's health status was a main topic of conversation for a team whose healthy players had advanced to the playoffs. A full year passed since he injured his anterior cruciate ligament and had surgery to repair it, with Rose electing to not to make a comeback this year.
Rose did practice, with the team, though, and the fact that he was playing behind closed doors at a high level, combined with the team's decision to announce that the former MVP would not play this season, caused a rift among the fan base.
In the end, Thibodeau said the decision to come back was all Rose's to make.
"He looked good, but the big thing was he didn't have the comfort level that he needed to play," Thibodeau said. "He wanted very badly to be out there. And he made a good decision, I think. We told him from the beginning: We want you to be completely comfortable before you get out there.
"He wasn't swayed by anybody other than doing what he thought was right. He put a lot of work into his rehab. He never quite got to the point where he felt comfortable enough to play. So he did the right thing. And now he has the whole summer to build confidence. And we'll move forward from there."
Thibodeau wasn't alone in his thought that Rose did the right thing. Taj Gibson, who was the only player to speak with the media Thursday, reiterated Thibodeau's sentiment.
"When it comes to injuries like that, you can't really tell what a guy's feeling like inside so you just have to support him and that's what he did," Gibson said. "I think he did the right thing now that the season's over. Now he can just focus on basketball and focus on coming back. The pressure is mostly on when you come back, because now everybody is going to expect to see him at 110 percent. There's no excuses then."
Gibson claimed to be unaware of the fan backlash Rose was getting for not playing. Is Thibodeau concerned about how Rose will be treated by fans moving forward?
"No, because at the end of the day, he had to do what he felt was right," Thibodeau said. "Whether it's praise or criticism, you can't be impacted by that. You have to do what you feel is right. And he did that. It's a very serious injury. And so he has put a lot of work into it. He hasn't taken any shortcuts with that. He's been diligent. He'll continue to be diligent throughout the summer. And he'll be ready to go next year."
Gibson said all the Rose talk was never a distraction. It was on the players' minds, though, because many felt that their teammate was being backed into a corner.
"Every day, you're just talking about Derrick's injury," Gibson said. "Just let him recover first. It's already hard enough, knowing you just hurt yourself at a pivotal time, when you're trying to compete for a championship. Then, you've got to come back and you've got to have the whole world asking your teammates about you, basically. That's got to be one of the most frustrating things. Nobody can tell you about yourself but yourself."