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Even with Rose’s extended absence, Bulls confident they can win

The Bulls bench cheers as Bulls go run second half Chicago Bulls 92-88 wover Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday October 9 2012

The Bulls bench cheers as the Bulls go on a run in the second half of the Chicago Bulls 92-88 win over the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday October 9, 2012 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 1, 2012 4:53PM

It wasn’t the kind of feel-good news that fans want before the curtain is pulled back on the 2012-13
season, but John Paxson handed out a cold dish of reality about injured star Derrick Rose.

The executive vice president of basketball operations said on WMVP-AM 1000 on Tuesday: “He’s made real good progress to this point, but there is still so much ahead of him. We’d be foolish to target any type of date. There’s going to have to be a significant amount of time that he spends on the practice floor before we would even entertain him getting into a game.

“Because we’re going to have to see how, once he does start to practice, whenever that is, how his knee and his body respond to hard practices two days in a row, three days in a row. And then we’re going to have to come up with some type of format of how much is he going to play, what are we going to do. So those things are well in the future.’’

It’s no wonder Taj Gibson’s words rang hollow when he said, “I think the sky is the limit. It’s up to us. I know we’ve got a lot of talent, and I’m looking forward to shocking the world.’’

If the Bulls survive the circus trip in mid-November, they can assess their shock value. It’s clear that, even with Rose not returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament anytime soon, the players don’t see the mediocrity many are predicting.

“I mean, honestly, what else are we supposed to say?’’ Luol Deng said. “We’re competitors, and no one is going to stand up here and say, ‘Yeah, we’ve got no chance.’ We practice hard, we work hard. We’ve been there where everyone expects you to get certain things, but nothing is handed to you in this league. We have the players to go out and win games, and we believe in each other.’’

It’s that belief that leads this group to set its own expectations.

“We want to get better, we want to play our best when our best is needed,’’ Joakim Noah said. “We’re a hungry group, and whether it’s two years ago, last year or this year, the goal is to be ready when it hits the fan at the end of the year in the playoffs.’’

Asked if this group can outperform expectations, Noah didn’t hesitate.

“No question, no question,’’ he said. “What makes me confident? How prepared we are, the character of this team. We all play for the right reasons. I think it’s an exciting season. We’re a team that’s gone through a lot of adversity with our best player being hurt. But he’ll be back, and to me that’s exciting.’’

Rose will be back. But the questions of when and what his minutes will be initially hang over this team.

Shock the world?

They’ll need baby steps first.

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