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Bulls' Rose still not sure when he'll return

DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose still isn't sure when he'll come back from his knee injury.

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The former MVP point guard sounded like a player who just might miss the entire season, though he said he hasn't experienced any setbacks in his recovery. He said Thursday that he's still experiencing some soreness in his surgically repaired left knee and hasn't set a target date for his return.

``It could be tomorrow and I feel like I can play the next game,'' Rose said as the Bulls practiced before Thursday night's game against Portland. ``Nobody knows but God.''

Rose hasn't played since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during last year's playoff opener against Philadelphia, an injury that sent the top-seeded Bulls toward a first-round exit. He had surgery in May, and his status has been a running soap opera surrounding this team.

His brother and manager Reggie Rose ripped the Bulls for standing pat at the trade deadline in an interview with ESPNChicago.com, saying it could be a ``big factor'' in whether Derrick plays this season. Then, the website reported two weeks ago that Derrick Rose had been medically cleared to play but told the team he won't until he can dunk with confidence off his left foot. All that fueled the idea that the team and its star were not on the same page, although Rose has said there is no rift.

He also has his teammates' support.

``It's big,'' Rose said. ``When I got my teammates behind me and they see how hard I'm pushing in practice and I'm seeing how hard they're fighting for me on the court, it makes me want to go harder. It makes me want to be out there more too. But you have to look at the big picture.''

That would be what's best in the long run.

The Bulls have struggled of late and entered Thursday sixth in the Eastern Conference at 36-30. Time would appear to be running out for a return, but Rose doesn't see it that way.

That could be because he's been operating with the same idea since he went down - he'll come back whenever he's ready. Asked how badly he wants to play, Rose said, ``Bad.''

``But knowing that my health is the biggest key, where I'm only 24 years old, I got the whole future in front of me I'm just trying to take my time,'' he said.

Rose said he's stronger from lifting weights and working out, and believes he will return ``a better player.'' There still are some mental and physical hurdles to clear.

``It's still about the same where you warm up a little bit, it's loose,'' Rose said. ``Then, the activity picks up and it gets back sore. Just fighting through that.''

Rose wouldn't put a percentage on where he's at physically, but he did say he's ``very comfortable'' during five-on-five drills.

``Sometimes, you kind of think a little bit while you're out there,'' he said. ``That's when I know I'll be ready to play, when I'm out there not thinking but reacting.''

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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