Derrick Rose began cutting on his surgically-repaired left knee, the next step in his nine- to 12-month recovery from tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose began the next progression "within the last week," reiterating that he does believe the All-Star guard will play at some point this season.
"Everything is going according to plan," Thibodeau said. "He's not ahead of schedule. He's not behind schedule. He's exactly where he should be."
Though Bulls fans may have hoped to hear that the prized point guard was ahead of schedule, it is more than comforting to know he's on pace to return this season.
Should Rose's rehab take the full 12 months, he would return just in time for the playoffs. If everything continues to go according to plan, however, he could return two or even three months before the postseason begins.
That is huge.
The Bulls are off to an ambiguous start to the season without Rose at the offense's helm. They remain near the top of the Central Division yet haven't exuded dominance on the offensive end by any means.
Chicago is currently just 20th in the league with 94.6 points per game. And though 44.6 percent shooting puts the team in the top 11 in overall field-goal percentage, its 31.6 percent clip from deep is ninth-worst in the Association.
Luckily for the Bulls, though, their fifth-ranked defense—which allows just 90.4 points per game—has allowed them to keep their heads above water. But fighting to stay above .500 isn't going to win this team a championship.
No, Rose won't solve Chicago's perimeter shooting woes, but he's the potent offensive force it currently lacks. Because while it's encouraging that the Bulls have five players averaging double-figures, their leading scorer in Luol Deng is averaging under 19 points a game.
Is that bad?
Absolutely not. Despite scoring at such a low rate, Chicago has kept the ball moving and is dropping a fifth-best 24 dimes per game.
But Rose is only going to help the team build on top of that. He provides the Bulls with not only a clear-cut first option on offense, but a go-to scorer down the stretch, a luxury they lacked in losses against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics.
Simply put, without Rose, this team is good. Really good. Like "break some contender's heart in the playoffs" good.
With him, however, they're an unstoppable force.
Even if Rose only makes it back in time for the playoffs, his addition is going to open up the floor for everybody else who has already stepped up in his absence. Should he make his return a couple of months before the postseason, though, then the rest of the NBA is in trouble.
We've seen what the Bulls can do with Rose. More importantly, though, we've seen what they can do without him. And what we've seen is enough to know they're only one piece short of competing for a championship.
A piece that is going to make it back just in time to not save the day, but rather, return in time to make sure the Bulls' days are worth even more than they already are.
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