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Derrick Rose: What to Make of Chicago Bulls PG's First Road Trip Since Injury

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls waits for a free-throw against the Philadelphia 76ers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on April 28, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the 76ers 103-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2013

Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose won't be returning to the court anytime soon, but he has taken a huge step in his recovery process. 

According to ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell, Rose recently joined the team on a road trip in Florida, traveling with his teammates for the first time since he tore his left ACL in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last spring. Although it doesn't seem like that big of a step, Rose's return to practice (non-contact drills and practice) and now regular-season road trips brings both hope and promise to the Windy City.

"The general guess-timate on Rose has been a return after the All-Star break, sometime in late February or early March," according to the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson, meaning that if the Bulls can hang with the East's top contenders for two more months, reinforcements may soon be on the way in the form of an MVP-caliber floor general.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau had the following to say recently about Rose's eventual return (via Johnson):

Whether it’s after the All-Star break, two weeks after, it’s when he’s ready, we don’t want to put a date on it. When he makes it through practices for an extended amount of time and there’s not any soreness the next day, we’ll make a decision then. He’s got a long way to go.

Chicago is currently 16-13 and in the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference, just five games back of conference-leading Miami. Clearly, the Bulls, who rank third in points allowed, 10th in assists and 11th on the boards, are just fine for now. 

They look like a playoff team even without their best player on the floor. That means when Rose returns to the lineup, another deep postseason run may not be as unlikely as it looks at the moment. 

NBA legend Magic Johnson agrees: 

If @drose can comeback and play at a high level the Bulls could shake up the Eastern Conference.

— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 1, 2013

Even if Rose isn't averaging 22 points and eight assists from the start, his presence and his leadership will elevate the Bulls from pretender to contender. Although it may seem like meaningless news, his recent road trip with the team signals the likelihood of that possibility.

No, Rose can't score, pass or defend from the bench, but his presence provides a symbol of hope and promise for a franchise that, as of now, is still in the hunt for a seventh NBA championship.

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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