Chicago Bulls Wise Not to Dismiss Derrick Rose's Possible Playoff Return

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIApril 19, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 05:  Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls keeps his balance as he moves against the Indiana Pacers at the United Center on March 5, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Pacers 92-72. 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)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls' playoff journey begins on Saturday evening in the Barclays Center against the Brooklyn Nets.

Superstar PG Derrick Rose appears likely to continue sitting out for the Eastern Conference's No. 5 seed, but the Bulls have wisely not dismissed the possibility that their best player will return for the postseason.

Rose hasn't played since Chicago's last postseason opener in 2012 against the Philadelphia 76ers, where he tore his ACL late in a Game 1 blowout victory and missed all 82 games this year.

In spite of that long layoff, teammates are not giving up on their 24-year-old franchise cornerstone.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier in the week that Joakim Noah has maintained that Rose will take the hardwood throughout the year.

Cowley's report also logged quotes from head coach Tom Thibodeau, who highlighted the importance of Rose and gave a vague answer as to whether the postseason could be the site of Rose's return:

It could be...He’s still not ready. We feel good about the guys we do have, and we just want to keep improving and let Derrick handle his rehab and just be ready for whoever we’re facing.

...Whenever he’s ready, we’re going to welcome him back because, obviously, he adds a lot to the team...Again, [Rose is] the type of player that makes everybody better...

Another noteworthy nugget was provided by small forward Jimmy Butler, who when asked if Rose would make an unexpected comeback, simply replied, "I don't know." However, Cowley noted that Butler flashed a wide smile afterwards, and in that context, seemed to leave the possibility open.

Hoopsworld.com's Alex Kennedy documented PF Carlos Boozer's comments on the matter:

Especially since Rose has been cleared to play since March 9 and still hasn't participated in a game in 2012-13, his recovery from the devastating knee injury has been polarizing.

What was apparently holding Rose back from participating in a game was his ability to confidently dunk off his left foot. More than a month has passed since that point, and Rose continues to practice and go through pregame warmups.

Any salty feelings Bulls fans have toward him, though, would be remedied if he were to take the court in the postseason. NBA title shots aren't ever a guarantee, and Chicago has shown serious grit and toughness in persevering through injuries and playing stout defense to reach this point.

Thibodeau mentioned the impact that Noah has had even in limited minutes against the Orlando Magic, per Cowley's report, and how it helped the team's ball movement immensely.

The lift that Rose would give to not only his team but also the Bulls fanbase in general would be absolutely electric—even if he doesn't grace the starting lineup right away.

After all, Rose is the point guard and the primary catalyst for Chicago's offense. The Bulls averaged the second-fewest points per game in the regular season and could desperately use a big-time scorer to turn to in the hopes of getting by the Miami Heat, New York Knicks—or even the Nets.

Even giving Brooklyn the hint that Rose may not be done for the year gives the home favorites something scary to think about in addition to Thibodeau's tenacious defense.

In a series in which the Bulls will be underdogs, this is a savvy move—even if Rose ultimately doesn't make it back. Chicago may get by Round 1 without its biggest star, but for a legitimate shot at reaching pro basketball's pinnacle, Rose must be in the fold.