The return of Derrick Rose is potentially closer than we think.
In an article by Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune, Rose has progressed:
The Bulls guard, who last week mentioned the possibility of sitting out the season, appeared to take another step Monday as he participated in 5-on-5 drills during practice.
Coach Tom Thibodeau said [Derrick] Rose did "what everyone else did'' and said his participation wasn't out of the ordinary based on the previously stated outlook. The plan all along was to have Rose return to 5-on-5 action after the break.
Rose cited his inability to dunk as the reason he knew he hadn't fully recovered, and Joakim Noah said Rose still wasn't dunking Monday. The Bulls went through three scrimmages of seven to eight minutes, during which Rose ran full-court. It was unclear how much contact Rose endured or how much pressure he put on his left knee.
Clearly Bulls fans now have every reason to be confident Rose will return sooner rather than later. Obviously, though, when exactly that is remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, Chicago continues to have his return to look forward to, because the team provides solid talent otherwise. While sporting a 30-22 record entering last weekend, the Bulls are just 2-5 in February. Still grasping the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference, we have to remember that Tom Thibodeau's team is also achieving this without their best player.
At the same time, we've seen Chicago's potential and capabilities this season with the current personnel.
In short, Chicago is a sound playoff team capable of making a deep run without Rose.
But according to Jimmy Golen of the Associated Press via Yahoo! Sports before the All-Star weekend:
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said in Chicago on Tuesday that nothing had changed in the team's outlook.
''He's right on schedule,'' he said. ''When he's ready, we'll know. We'll go from there.
Rose said he played three-on-three and one-on-one recently and hasn't had any setbacks.
''That's a good thing right now, to go in every day just knowing you're getting better,'' he said.
With a potentially healthy Rose, the Bulls will find another level of overall production. He can create his own shots, set up everyone else and lock it down defensively.
Factor his advantage on transition and the offense will certainly get more scoring. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, though, his return date remains uncertain:
Right now, Nate Robinson is Chicago's best facilitator—although Kirk Hinrich averages more assists, Robinson creates his own shot better which forces another aspect a defense must address.
This is why the Bulls have reason to be optimistic.
The offense—for as little as it scores by comparison to most of the league—still produces just enough minus Rose. Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng also rank, among their respective positions, within the top 10 in points per game.
As long as the defense continues to shut down opposing offenses, Chicago will be a dangerous postseason club. Just the thought of Rose potentially returning simply gives more promise to the 2012-13 campaign.