Derrick Rose Expected to Become Fixture on Chicago Bulls Bench by Mid-January

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2013

PORTLAND, OR - NOVEMBER 22:  Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls sits on the bench before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on November 22, 2013 at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Good news, Chicago Bulls fans: The Windy City is still home to awesome deep-dish pizza. Oh, and Derrick Rose is preparing for a return of sorts—just not the one you want.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau indicated the point guard's rehab is going swimmingly (literally), and according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley, that means Rose could become a "fixture on the bench" by mid-January.

"Well, he can lift upper-body, do all his rehab stuff, so he is starting to move around a little bit now," Thibs said. "He can go in the pool."

First step: water polo. Second step: watching games courtside.

Seeing Rose on the sidelines, in a suit with long sleeves, barren of perspiration, doesn't mean much. The Bulls announced in late November that a torn medial meniscus in his right knee would keep him out of uniform for the remainder of 2013-14.

Progress is progress, though. Progress also fuels potentially false hope.

"If I'm healthy and the situation is right, I'll be out there playing," Rose said of possibly returning this season, according to USA Today's Sean Highkin. "But if it's something totally different and the outcome isn't something I want, there's no need."

The Bulls gave him an out, freeing their point guard and themselves from speculation that constantly dogged them last year.

Would Rose return? Would he sit the entire season? Questions never stopped and while an actual return isn't feasibly imminent, his continued presence on the sidelines, coupled with reports bound to be unearthed along the way, could impel more of the same.

Not to say Rose shouldn't be on the sidelines. Cheering on his teammates is a given right. If he's healthy enough for a birds-eye view of the action, then courtside is where he should be. Maybe watching his team struggle will motivate him even further.

It's a suddenly prolonged absence from the sidelines you have to worry about. Occasional truancies are inevitable, but if he abruptly misses a string of games, it may imply he's had physical complications. Or worse, it could suggest there's a rift brewing between the organization and himself.

Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News previously wrote Rose didn't want Chicago to start rebuilding during his rehabilitation. Now, via CSN Chicago's Aggrey Sam, we're catching word the Bulls have set a price of one "productive young player and a first-round draft pick" for two-time All-Star Luol Deng.

If Chicago opts to rebuild or tank, or whatever you want to call it, dealing Deng is the place to start. Trading him is also where disagreements between Rose and the Bulls could start.

Chances are Rose, portrayed as a team player through and through, won't leave the sidelines once he's cleared to support his teammates.

Exactly who he's rooting for, and when he'll actually return to action, is what remains unknown.