Derrick Rose thinks he'll play Sunday

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Barring any setbacks, Derrick Rose believes he will make his long-awaited return to the Chicago Bulls' starting lineup Sunday afternoon against the New York Knicks.

Rose, who has missed 22 games this season because of various injuries, including 12 consecutive with a groin injury, says the pain in his groin is gone.

"I'm feeling good," Rose said after Saturday morning's practice. "My groin's not bothering me. I'm happy to move on. My spirits are up. Today is my first full practice. Just practicing with the guys felt good out there and hopefully I'll be playing Sunday."

Rose says the decision lies in his hands, not with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.

"It's really not up to him, it's up to me," Rose said. "Where if I'm feeling good, I'm going to play. If I think that I need some more days, I'm going to take some more days. But more than likely I'll be out there."

While both Rose and Thibodeau have stated they want to be cautious, Rose admitted that it would be tough to play it cool Sunday if the game is close.

"I think it's up to me if I want to play a certain amount of minutes," Rose said. "I know that if it's a close game, no matter how many minutes they allow me to play, I know that I'm going to want to go out there, probably fight somebody to go out there. But I should be all right."

As usual, Thibodeau labeled his star player a "game-time" decision.

"He's good," Thibodeau said. "Went through the whole practice. He keeps getting better. He's very close. We'll see (Sunday)."

Thibodeau, who also noted that he was "optimistic" about Rose's return, said he isn't sure what to expect initially from the reigning league MVP.

"You won't know until he gets out there because of the amount of time that he's missed," Thibodeau said. "He's never missed an extended amount of time like this before. But every other time when he's come back, he gets up to speed pretty quickly. He's been putting a lot of extra time in, so hopefully he'll be ready once he's out there."

Although Rose expects to play close to his regular minutes and said he wasn't worried about his conditioning, Thibodeau noted that Rose may be on a time limit in the beginning. Rose hasn't played since injuring the groin in a March 12 win over the Knicks.

"He's missed quite a bit of time, so probably shorter minutes initially," Thibodeau said. "Again, the important thing is we want to be smart about it."

Rose is just looking forward to being back on the floor with his teammates. He acknowledged that the past month has been a struggle because he hasn't been able to contribute to the Bulls' league-leading 43-13 record.

"It's been hard," Rose said. "It's definitely been hard, but God does everything for a reason. And I really don't know the reason right now, but I know it should be good."