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Bulls must be cautious, even if it means Derrick Rose misses season

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose could miss entire 2012-13 seasbut even worse would be Bulls trying rush him back. |

Bulls point guard Derrick Rose could miss the entire 2012-13 season, but even worse would be the Bulls trying to rush him back. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: June 29, 2012 9:29AM

Three words of advice for Derrick Rose as he rehabilitates his surgically repaired left knee, offered in a Tom Thibodeau cadence I can’t get out of my head: Take. Your. Time.

Rose is expected to need eight to 12 months of recovery and rehabilitation before being able to play in a real NBA game. And while we’re all obviously rooting for the shorter end of that time frame, the full year might not be a bad option, considering what’s at stake for the Bulls and the 23-year-old Rose — even if it means he misses the 2012-13 season.

Pardon my cynicism, but the last thing I want to hear about Rose’s rehabilitation is the inevitable ‘‘He’s ahead of schedule.’’ Frankly, I don’t want him to be ahead of schedule. And if Rose ever is ahead of schedule, here’s some layman’s advice for his doctors: Don’t tell him. Don’t give Rose anything that’s going to encourage him to come back sooner than he should.

That’s likely to be a reasonable concern given the time frame offered by Dr. Brian Cole at the news conference Tuesday at Rush University Medical Center. Eight months takes him to the middle of January. Ten months to the middle of March. Who knows what the Bulls’ standing will be at either point? But Thibodeau is good enough to at least make it seem like the Bulls need only Rose to put them over the top.

Temptation, hope and human nature almost certainly make that a risky temptation. An in-season return from a torn ACL is inherently complicated — not only reintroducing Rose to competitive NBA basketball, but reintroducing him to a team that has played without him all season and will have at least a few components with which Rose is unfamiliar.

And here’s an inevitable issue that should resonate with Bulls management considering their recent history: Will Rose have a prescribed limit on his minutes when he returns? And, if so, who will be prescribing it? How will Thibodeau resist the temptation to push Rose beyond his limit in a tight game with playoff implications? He played Rose 39 minutes in a one-point victory over the Knicks in April after a 12-game absence. It seems likely Thibodeau will be able to avoid a Vinny Del Negro moment. But it might be more challenging than he thinks.

Everything about Rose’s return next season would be a challenge. Who will make the final decision on Rose’s eventual return to the court? Derrick? Cole? Fred Tedeschi? John Paxson? Gar Forman? Reggie Rose? B.J. Armstrong? Adidas? Or Thibodeau?

Or Jerry Reinsdorf? When Michael Jordan was about to return in mid-March after missing 64 games with a broken foot in 1985-86, Reinsdorf wanted Jordan to sit out the rest of the season. But he allowed Jordan to make the decision, and Jordan said no.

‘‘I couldn’t talk him out of it,’’ Reinsdorf said. ‘‘I can’t say no to Michael Jordan. I’m the boss, and if I wanted to, I could just say no. But Michael is a special case.’’

That was Jordan’s irrepressible will at work. But let the record show that the 23-year-old Jordan was making a calculated decision from his head, not his heart. A month earlier when he was two months past his original return date, Jordan, upon consultation with his doctors, decided to wait four more weeks for another examination before returning to the court. Innately impulsive and emotional, Jordan was never more prudent than when his basketball future was on the line.

Judging from the tone of the news conference, when Cole acknowledged the possibility that Rose might miss the season and Forman talked about making decisions based on the long term, the Bulls plan to take the cautious approach to Rose’s recovery. It’ll be interesting to see if the first ‘‘He’s ahead of schedule’’ update changes that. Barring a medical miracle, they might want to keep September 2013 circled on their schedule.

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