Derrick Rose isn't quite ruling out a return to the Chicago Bulls this season.
The superstar point guard left the door slightly open for a comeback in the playoffs if his surgically repaired right knee is healed, even though the team has said he will miss the rest of the year.
Rose suffered a medial meniscus tear in his right knee in a game at Portland on Nov. 22. He had surgery in Chicago three days later, cutting short his long awaited return after he sat out last season recuperating from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
"If I'm healthy and the situation is right, I will be back playing," Rose said Thursday when asked if he might return for the playoffs. "If I'm healthy and my meniscus is fully healed, of course I'll be out there playing. But if it's something totally different and the outcome is not how I would want it to be, there's no need."
The 2011 MVP, Rose insisted he can still be an elite player despite his recent injuries.
He tore the ACL in his left knee in 2012 playoff opener against Philadelphia, sending top-seeded Chicago to a first-round exit. The Bulls relived their nightmare last month in Portland when Rose lost his footing while turning to get back on defense. Rose limped across the court, unable to put any weight on his knee, a huge blow for a team that thought it would challenge Miami in the Eastern Conference.
Rose is in an all-too-familiar spot, trying to recuperate. He has played in just 50 NBA games, 49 in the regular season and that lone playoff game, since the Bulls' run to the conference finals during his MVP season, and at least some fans are wondering if the organization should move on.
"What can I say to that?" Rose said. Then, after a long pause, he added, "You could be a fool if you want to. I know I'm going to be all right."
He insisted he can still be an elite player, and he felt like he was starting to return to form when he went down.
He was averaging 15.9 points and was shooting just over 35 per cent. But he looked a little better in his final two games with 19 points in a loss at Denver and 20 against Portland.
"I was catching a rhythm of how I used to play," Rose said. "I think I was getting in condition more than anything for this season. For this one to happen, just from me turning and running back down the court, there's nothing I can say about it, nothing I can do about it, but just take it, be strong."
Rose wondered how it could happen to him again after everything he went through, particularly after the surgery. But he was also relieved he didn't suffer an ACL tear.
Even so, he knew the injury was serious when he was being examined in Portland. He said his leg was "catching on the meniscus side, on the inside."
"I started thinking about, `Why me?' and all that stuff the day after the surgery," Rose said.
He said meniscus tear was a "freak accident."
"[The doctors] look at the tape, look at the film," Rose said. "The first one [the ACL tear] could have been I put too much pressure or I put too much weight on that leg at that time. This one ... I didn't buckle me knee or anything. I paused for a second. I was able to still run a few steps before I couldn't walk. It just happened."
Now, he's going for therapy every day. He's incorporated yoga and swimming into his rehab routine.
When Rose does return, the Bulls could have a different look. After all, Luol Deng has an expiring contract and Carlos Boozer is a candidate to be amnestied.
Rose said he hasn't thought about that.
"There's a chance I could come back so I'm just cheering them on," he said.
For now, the Bulls are in a difficult spot. They were third in the Central division at 7-9 entering Thursday's game against Miami, one that looked like a marquee matchup when the schedule came out. Since then, it's lost that shine.
Rose insisted he's not finished.
"I believe that I'm a special player. I think people love the way that I just play. I don't try to impress anyone while I'm playing or anything. I've just got a feel for the game. I know my story is far from done."