The Norman Transcript

National Sports

May 17, 2013

Without Rose, Bulls fight to end

DEERFIELD, Ill. — The next time he suits up for a game, there’s a good chance Derrick Rose will actually be in a uniform and not in a jacket and slacks.

That moment can’t come soon enough for the Chicago Bulls.

They got through an entire season without their superstar and kept picking themselves up every time they were knocked down, until the Miami Heat beat them 4-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed have expiring contracts, and the team figures to exercise its $1 million buyout on Richard Hamilton.

Coach Tom Thibodeau also did not rule out the possibility of foot surgery for Joakim Noah, and Kirk Hinrich’s badly bruised left calf is a concern.

But any talk about the future starts with one player — the guy who wears No. 1.

Rose sat out all season following knee surgery, and his recovery remains the biggest story surrounding this team. He took a lot of public criticism from fans who wondered why he wasn’t back on the court.

“He looked good (in scrimmages), but the big thing was he didn’t have the comfort level that he needed to play,” Thibodeau said Thursday after exit interviews. “He wanted very badly to be out there. And he made a good decision, I think. We told him from the beginning, ‘We want you to be completely comfortable before you get out there.’ He wasn’t swayed by anybody, other than doing what he thought was right. He put a lot of work into his rehab, never quite got to the point where he felt comfortable enough to get out there and play. He did the right thing, and now he has the whole summer to build more confidence and we’ll move forward from there.”

Thibodeau said he’s confident Rose will be a dominant player again, and if that happens, maybe the season-long soap opera that surrounded his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee will finally fade.

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