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Teammate: Derrick Rose seems ready, but he has to believe it

Injured Bulls guard Derrick Rose works out before Chicago Bulls-Miami Hegame Thursday February 21 2013 United Center . | Tom

Injured Bulls guard Derrick Rose works out before the Chicago Bulls-Miami Heat game Thursday February 21, 2013 at the United Center . | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 25, 2013 6:59AM



OKLAHOMA CITY — The finger quickly went up to the temple.

“I think it’s up here now,’’ a Bulls player said late Friday night when asked about Derrick Rose’s return. “I know it’s not [his heart]. We all know that, but he’s ready . . . he’s ready, man.

“Anyone who saw him in the [five-on-five] scrimmages [last week] knows he’s ready. But it’s his body, so he’s gotta believe it.’’

Right before the All-Star break, Rose said he needed to be 110 percent before he’d return to the court, and a big measuring stick would be regaining his patented explosive ability around the rim. Specifically, Rose said he wanted to be able to dunk off stride.

But Rose has been dunking since January, a teammate said. Maybe not off stride, but the explosion ‘‘is just about there.’’

The organization wants to stay away from making Rose feel like there’s pressure to return. That was easy the first three months of the season when coach Tom Thibodeau had his players believing they could run with any team in the league, with or without Rose.

They closed out January with a 28-17 record and a 13-6 road mark that included a victory in Miami and two in New York.

The February schedule has been tougher, or maybe it’s reality catching up with them. Either way, while his teammates and the organization are doing all they can to keep the spotlight off Rose’s return, their 4-6 record since Feb. 1 speaks volumes.

Center Joakim Noah acknowledged that people outside the Berto Center might be questioning Rose, but he’s putting his foot down — plantar fasciitis and all.

“That’s my brother,’’ Noah said of Rose. “I don’t care what anybody says. I know how much he puts on his shoulders for the city of Chicago and for this entire organization, so I’ll never question him . . . never.’’

Noah understands the Bulls are a better team with Rose in the lineup, but he believes they still can win a title without him.

“I feel like we work very hard to be able to compete against everybody,’’ said Noah, who still thinks Rose will return this season. “It’s been an up-and-down season. We’ve had some great wins, some terrible losses, but we feel like if we play the right way and play to our capabilities, even without Derrick, we feel like we can make some noise, loud noise.’’

Noah wasn’t alone in that sentiment.

“Of course, we would love to have Derrick,’’ forward/center Taj Gibson said. “He’s that type of player that separates us from a lot of other teams. He’s a superstar. He’s one of the guys we look to late, especially if we need a big shot, a great shot. He’s the guy that will step up. He’s a leader. Of course, we’re going to think that we need Derrick, but you never know when he’s going to come back.

“I think we have enough talent [without Rose]. We’ve played a lot of tough teams, and when we play really good teams, for the most part, we play well. It seems when we play the lackadaisical teams, we kind of struggle because the intensity isn’t always there. We’re still learning in that way, but when the time comes, we’ll have it down.’’



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