"Oh, no," Rose said, when asked if he'd announce he's sitting out this season. "I'm keeping it open."
"I'll play whenever I'm ready to play. Who knows when I'm ready to? Right now, all I can do is just cheer on my teammates."
Clearly this is optimistic news for the Bulls, their fans and their potential regarding a deep playoff run.
Sitting in the No. 5 spot with a 42-34 record entering Tuesday evening, Chicago is two games back of the Brooklyn Nets and one ahead of the Atlanta Hawks. No matter what may unfold before the postseason, though, Chicago has definitely proved itself without Rose this entire campaign.
The defense ranks No. 3 in points allowed per game (92.4), and the Bulls are also No. 9 in rebounds (43.2) and No. 7 in assists (22.9).
Obviously the offense took a major hit this season, but consistently grinding out victories and sporting a 31-15 conference record is no fluke. Rose or no Rose, coach Tom Thibodeau's team remains physical at each end and knows how to rely on multiple players offensively: Five average 10-plus points.
Chicago's depth is also quite impressive with nine players averaging 20-plus minutes per contest. Any time a coach has a number of players to rely on this drastically helps fend off foul trouble, not to mention possess the luxury to mix and match personnel for in-game adjustments.
The defense will continue to asphyxiate the paint and each post position as well, as Chicago ranks No. 9 in opposing shooting percentage (44.2). Generating turnovers, however, does need to improve: Chicago only forces an average of 13.8 which ranks No. 22.
Now mesh everything here together and add Rose, and Chicago would be elevated to an unforeseen level this year.
In short, all that's missing is that explosive piece to the offensive puzzle, as well as a perimeter defender who creates more turnover opportunities.
Return or no return, Rose is healthier and was medically cleared according to Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com early last month:
Derrick Rose's doctor has cleared the Chicago Bulls' star to play, a team source said, but his long-awaited return to the lineup won't occur until he can confidently dunk off his left foot, Rose has told the team.
And speaking of his left foot...