"I was able to speak with Derrick off-camera a couple days ago, and he's telling me how badly he does want to be out there, but he says that he just doesn't have the muscle memory back, is the way he put it," sideline reporter Rachel Nichols said during the network's coverage of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Nichols also said that the lack of muscle memory is affecting the way Rose's knee feels and the way he shoots, and that until his body can react without him thinking about it, he doesn't want to be on the court and unsure of himself.
Rose underwent surgery to repair his torn left anterior cruciate ligament on May 12, 2012, and while he's been scrimmaging 5-on-5 since Feb. 18 and by all accounts looks dominant in practice, he has yet to play in a game this season. He's been medically cleared to play, but he has said he doesn't feel confident enough to test the knee in a game. Neither he nor the Bulls have ruled him out for the rest of this postseason, but it doesn't appear likely he'll play in Game 7 on Saturday against the Brooklyn Nets. When asked Friday whether he has any indication Rose will play Saturday, coach Tom Thibodeau said "No."
Rose hasn't talked to the media on the record since the playoffs started, and his interviews since his injury have been infrequent.
The spotlight has grown hotter for Rose as he watches teammates such as Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis), Taj Gibson (knee) and Kirk Hinrich (calf) fight through injuries. In addition, Luol Deng missed Thursday's game with the flu, and Nate Robinson said Thursday that he was vomiting on the bench due to flu-like symptoms.
Former Bulls guard and TNT analyst Steve Kerr said Rose owes it to his teammates to play if his only obstacle is a lack of confidence.
"I think Derrick owes it to his teammates at this stage," Kerr said Monday on "The Carmen & Jurko Show" on ESPN 1000. "And again, I've been Derrick's biggest supporter on this. I've been saying all along, up until [Saturday], I've been saying, 'He should not play if he's not comfortable.'
"But if this is just about not being fully confident, you've got to go out there. If this is about, 'Hey, it doesn't feel right and I'm worried I can hurt it,' then no way should he play. But if this is just about, 'You know, gosh, I'm just not quite confident yet,' I would appeal to him and say, 'Can you give us 20 minutes?' And if you're Derrick, you've been watching Noah and Hinrich play on one leg this whole series, at what point do you start to feel sort of self-conscious and guilty about what's unfolding?"
The Bulls came to Rose's defense on Wednesday.
"Derrick owes it to what's right," coach Tom Thibodeau said Wednesday. "And the more I'm around him, the more I'm impressed with this guy's character.
"He's not being swayed by anybody. He's not quite there, and we made that clear to him from the beginning. We're going to support him in every way possible. I would never question him. Ever."