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Will Derrick Rose’s debut come during West Coast trip or at home?

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose

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Updated: April 9, 2013 11:55AM



It’s not a game that many of ­Derrick Rose’s teammates want to partake in these days — at least for the record.

Off the record, “mid-March’’ was one Bulls teammate’s reply when asked to guess a return date for the best player on the roster yet to step on the court this season.

When reminded that would be next week when the team is still on a West Coast trip, the answer changed to ‘‘maybe two weeks.’’

That’s all Rose’s return is these days for most — a guess, a hope.

After a Wednesday night loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Bulls are 6-10 in their last 16 games, dropping to the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference and fading. The bigger concern was a 3-9 record in their last 12 games against playoff-caliber teams.

“We’re average . . . pretty average,’’ center Joakim Noah said after the latest stumble Wednesday.

Actually, below average is more accurate, as long as they stay short-handed.

The good news is that Taj Gibson was hoping to be back next week from a sprained left medial collateral ligament. Rip Hamilton’s bad back is improving. And Kirk Hinrich’s sore right foot was less painful, though he’s still in a walking boot.

With those three back and healthy, the Bulls are a playoff team. But to get past a team such as the Indiana Pacers, and the ultimate obstacle in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat, they need Rose.

The latest update from the organization is unchanged, whether it’s coming from coach Tom Thibodeau or general manager Gar Forman.

“Derrick is right on schedule,’’ both have said in the last week.

The confusion is, what exactly is that schedule? Rose had surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on May  12. The original timetable was 8-12 months, but realistically it was 10-12 months.

Next week will be exactly 10 months since the surgery, so perhaps Rose is “right on schedule’’ ­after all. After playing the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, the Bulls were scheduled to stay in the L.A. area for two days of practice before heading to Sacramento late Tuesday night. Rose spends his offseason — and spent a good part of his rehab — in the Los Angeles area, so there will be growing speculation on that trip. But there always has been the belief that the Bulls want Rose’s first game to be in front of the home crowd at the United Center.

The Bulls host the Denver Nuggets on March 18, the Portland Trail Blazers three days later, and then the Pacers on March 23. That’s a three-game homestand with plenty of practice time in between for Rose.

But before Thibodeau can worry about that, his bigger concern is getting Hinrich back in the starting lineup. Marco Belinelli has been getting more touches at point guard in Hinrich’s absence lately because Thibodeau is trying to give opposing defenses a different look.

Belinelli, who played point guard in the Italian League, said he was up for whatever was asked.

‘‘If I have to bring the ball up or take three-point shots, that’s OK. I just want to be on the court,’’ Belinelli said. ‘‘When I was really young I was a tough point guard, so I think I can do that. I want to be a complete player.’’

That’s a good attitude to have. Until Rose returns, it’s the only ­attitude to have.



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