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Derrick Rose might not be able to return next season

Derrick Rose might not be able resume practicing with Bulls until January. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Derrick Rose might not be able to resume practicing with the Bulls until January. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 17, 2012 8:21AM

If Derrick Rose returns next season, it’s unlikely he’ll be the player he was before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee April 28.

That’s if he returns. The doctor who performed the successful surgery to repair Rose’s isolated ACL tear and a meniscus tear Saturday morning at Rush University Medical Center said some athletes take longer to recover for reasons that can be physiological as well as psychological.

“There’s no question that happens,” Dr. Brian Cole said. “People ask why don’t you get back to pre-injury level. In some cases, there’s just a level of confidence that they just don’t get, which is why we emphasize it so much during rehab, to help train an individual that it’s safe to do this.”

The Bulls aren’t counting on Rose returning next season. They aren’t even planning for it. But general manager Gar Forman said he will keep the core of a team that had the league’s best regular-season record in consecutive seasons together with an eye toward the future.

Even if Rose’s injury prevents the Bulls from competing for a title next season, Forman is confident they will in time.

“We’re hopeful at some point he’ll be back,” Forman said. “I’m not sure we’ll make plans as if he will be, but we’re optimistic he will be at some point. The biggest thing in my mind and our mind with an injury like this is we’ve obviously spent a lot of time putting this team together. Everything was looking at the big picture, long term, and it’s our job to stay focused on that and continue to look at what we feel is a long window of opportunity to have success.

“Have we taken a hit in the short term? Without question. Will we make decisions based on the short term? We won’t. Our decisions will continue to be based on the long term, and a big part of that is Derrick, who we feel will be a special player for us for the next 10, 15 years.”

Rose will continue his rehabilitation either in Chicago or Los Angeles under the guidance of the team’s medical and training staffs. He’ll start running in about four months, at which point basketball-related activities can begin, such as spot shooting. He’ll work on cutting and then absorbing contact before he can start practicing with the team, which could happen in January.

The speed and explosiveness that are his trademarks should return in time, although it often takes longer than it does for the injury to heal.

“Some of the things you’ve seen Derrick do over and over again he’ll have to re-learn,” Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi said.

Cole said it’s unlikely that he would recommend Rose sit out the entire season if his rehab is progressing satisfactorily.

“There’s actually a lot of therapeutic benefit to start with [limited] minutes,” he said. “All those muscles have to kick in. Obviously, you can do that off the court, but there’s a lot of benefit when he’s safe. Whether he has to go 40 minutes, that’s a whole different story. But just getting out there and playing when he’s able, that’s when his exponential growth will come.

“Lots of athletes go back and play at a very high level but are not initially at the level they were pre-injury.”

That means, with or without Rose, next season could look a lot like this season, when players missed 98 games to injury or illness and the team bowed out in the first round of the playoffs.

“The most important thing for us right now is his health,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We want him to focus on that. As we said during the season when it happened, it’s a new challenge for us, we’ll get through it, we want him to prioritize his health right now and when he comes back, he comes back. There will be no pressure on him to come back soon. When he’s ready, he’s ready.”

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