DEERFIELD, ILL. (AP) - Derrick Rose isn’t sure he’ll be the same player once he returns from his knee surgery.
He thinks he might be better.
The superstar point guard’s recovery remains the biggest issue hanging over the Chicago Bulls, particularly after they announced a four-year contract extension for coach Tom Thibodeau on Monday. Rose is expected to miss a big chunk of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee late in a playoff-opening win over the Philadelphia 76ers, an injury that sent the top-seeded Bulls staggering toward a first-round exit.
“I’m going to be a better player, but who knows in what area?” Rose said at the team’s media day session. “My legs have never been this strong before. My upper body has never been this strong before. My core has never been this strong before. I’m just going to see how far this takes me.”
The strides he’s made since his surgery are encouraging, but his return date remains up in the air. How soon after that until he’s back to his old MVP form remains to be seen, too.
“I can’t wait to get back on the court to see what I’m going to do,” he said. “I don’t know how I’m going to play. I don’t know what’s going to be new about my game. I know it’s just going to be exciting for everyone to see.”
“Let’s not forget, he’s got a long way to go,” Forman said. “He remains focused, committed to what he’s doing. There haven’t been any setbacks. That’s why we say he’s on schedule, but as far as the future is concerned, we’re taking this process step by step. Up to this step, he’s right where we want him to be.”
Rose realizes he’ll have to convince the Bulls, doctors and trainers once he feels he’s ready to return. His next big hurdle on the court will come in about two weeks. That’s when he’ll start making abrupt changes in direction.
“Cutting is the hardest thing in the world right now to do,” he said. “I’m scared of it.”
They were widely viewed as the biggest threat to Miami in the Eastern Conference after capturing the top seed for the second straight year, but that changed once Rose went down. With Joakim Noah spraining his left ankle later in the 76ers series and Luol Deng playing with a torn ligament in his left wrist, the Bulls bowed out early after losing to the Heat in the conference finals the previous year.
Now, the team has a different look, with its franchise player sidelined and most of the so-called “bench mob” gone. The Bulls brought in veteran Kirk Hinrich for a second stint to run the point with Rose gone and likely move into a backup role once he returns, but for now, outside expectations aren’t particularly high.
“Our goals are going to stay the same, and that’s to win a championship,” Rose said. “You never know how we’re going to play. With basketball, you can have all the greatest players, but you have to play as a team to win. The team that won it last year, Miami, they built that team where they didn’t have all the best players. They had players that knew their role. They play hard, did what they had to do to win, and that’s what we need to do.”