Derrick Rose unsure of return

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said Thursday he still doesn't have a return date in mind, despite the fact less than a month remains in the regular season.

"It could be tomorrow and I feel like I could play the next game," said Rose, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during the playoffs last year. "Nobody knows but God."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose was most likely out for Thursday night's game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Rose said in a February interview with USA Today that he was in the "high 80s" as far as being back to 100 percent healthy, but he did not want to put a percentage on his health after Thursday's shootaround.

"I really don't know right now," Rose said. "I don't want to place no percentage on it, but I just know that I'm close and I'm taking every day serious and just becoming a professional."

Rose, 24, reiterated that he had no date in mind after which he would consider it too late to come back this season. He tore his left ACL on April 28 and underwent surgery on May 12.

"Not at all," he said. "I feel like when I'm ready to come back I'll be ready no matter what it is. ... Whenever I'm ready, I'm going to be out there."

Rose said that he can feel the explosion coming back into his game.

"It's coming," he said. "I'm not panicking or anything. If anything, I think I'm going to be a better player.

"I'm just taking my time. I'm just being patient, doing all the right things and really eating right and getting rest."

Rose does believe that he has gotten stronger with the constant rehab he has been doing over the past 10 months since his surgery.

"I'm way stronger," Rose said. "Way stronger. I'm just seeing how I'm going to put that in my game. I don't know yet. But when we're playing 5-on-5, just trying to pick the right spots and really just trying to find out how strong I am."

Rose also acknowledged that he is still fighting through the same general soreness and pain that he has been dealing with throughout the process.

"It's still about the same," he said. "Where when you warm up a little bit [the knee] will be loose then the activity will pick up then it will get back sore. [I'm] just fighting through that."

Rose said his support staff, including his teammates, has played a huge role in overcoming the mental obstacles.

"It's tough, definitely challenging, but having my teammates behind me and my team behind me, with [agent] B.J. [Armstrong], my brother [Reggie] and my family, they made everything smooth," Rose said. "I'm just trying to ride this wave, and hopefully I'll be out there.

"It's big, man. When I've got my teammates behind me and they see how hard I'm pushing in practice and I'm seeing how hard their fighting for me on the court, it makes me want to go harder. It makes me want to be out there more, but you've got to look at the big picture."

He said he wants to return, but he framed it in a larger context.

"[I want to return] bad," he said. "But knowing my health is the biggest key, where I'm only 24 years old, I've got the whole future in front of me. I'm just trying to take my time."

Although some point to other athletes who have returned from ACL surgery in a shorter amount of time and wonder if Rose has suffered a setback, Rose said that's not the case.

"Not at all," he said. "It's just getting used to -- my activity picked up a little bit, so just getting used to running, playing 5-on-5. Just doing everything like how I used to do it."

The Bulls entered action Thursday sixth in the Eastern Conference.