Derrick Rose confident knee OK for Saturday despite missing second half

CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose did not play for the Chicago Bulls in the second half of Wednesday night's 91-85 win over the Atlanta Hawks because of left knee soreness, but is optimistic about being ready for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Rose, who had a meniscectomy on his right knee on Feb. 27, said he dealt with soreness in the left knee a couple weeks ago, but wanted to be cautious in advance of the playoffs.

He played just 10 minutes on Wednesday night and scored just two points. He said it was his decision to come out of the game, but he could have stayed in if it were a postseason contest.

"Just felt a little soreness in my left knee," Rose said. "I felt it at the end of the second quarter, so [there] ain't no point in rushing it. ... Just felt a little soreness in my left knee. I felt it at the end of the second quarter, so [there] ain't no point in rushing it."

Rose tore the ACL in his left knee on April 28, 2012 in the first game of the Eastern Conference playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers.

He is looking forward to playing in the postseason again.

"It means a lot," he said of playing in the playoffs again. "But it's still going to take some work to get there. It's going to take some work to get my mental game ready because the playoffs is a totally different game. I think I'm ready for it but we will see. We got a couple of days to get our bodies together, get our mind clear, clean up our house, and get started Saturday."

Rose has now played five games since coming back last Wednesday in a loss against the Orlando Magic.

He remains outwardly confident that he can help lead his team in the playoffs.

"I believe I'm one of the best players in the NBA," Rose said.

When a reporter responded, "Still?" Rose was quick with a response.

"Still," he said.

In other injury related news, Bulls forward Taj Gibson left Wednesday's game with a left shoulder strain.

The veteran forward said he got a cortisone shot in his shoulder at halftime and is confident he'll be ready to go for Game 1. He said he initially hurt his shoulder in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 5.

"I was in a lot of pain," Gibson said. "I was in a lot of pain all [Tuesday]. Even in Brooklyn I was in a lot of pain, but I just kept playing. Kept playing and trying to be tough. Just trying to go after it and put my body first. Put my body before the team. No excuses. I just got to keep being tough. It's that time of the year. You got to push out all excuses, push out all the negativity, and it's time to go."

Bulls center Joakim Noah (left knee/hamstring tendinitis) and point guard Kirk Hinrich (hyperextended left knee) both sat out of Wednesday's game.

Noah said after Wednesday's shootaround that he feels he will be ready to go in Game 1. Hinrich's status remains unclear as he continues the rehab process.

The Bulls now must set their sights on a Milwaukee team that had a solid year under first-year head coach Jason Kidd.

"It's going to be fun," Rose said. "It should be a fun series. They're a young, great team, a great coach, and they're really going to push us to play hard."