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Tom Thibodeau pleads for patience with Derrick Rose’s return

Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose before an NBA basketball game between IndianPacers Chicago Bulls Sunday March 3 2013 Indianapolis. (AP Photo/DarrCummings)

Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose before an NBA basketball game between the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls Sunday, March 3, 2013, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

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Updated: March 6, 2013 11:09AM

Sixty games into the regular season, it’s a tough sell for a team only a few losses away from dropping from a fourth or fifth seed to an eighth seed.

But Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau did his best Tuesday to deflect the growing anticipation of when — or if — star guard Derrick Rose will return.

“Everyone has to remain patient,’’ Thibodeau said for the umpteenth time.

Easier said than done.

The Bulls enter the game Wednesday in San Antonio only 4-6 in their last 10 games and 3-9 in their last 12 against playoff-caliber opponents. The masses are screaming for a more definitive answer on Rose.

Thibodeau, however, wasn’t budging.

“There’s a lot of people that have to weigh in on it, and he knows his body,’’ Thibodeau said. “Everybody’s got to sign off on it. Whenever he’s ready, he’s ready. Nothing has changed for us. For our team, I want them to continue to concentrate on improvement and our opponent, and for Derrick, I want him to continue to concentrate on his rehab.

“We’re 60 games into this. I think going into the season, we had a lot of question marks. I think we have more answers now. We’ve figured out, I think, who we are. We’re heading down the stretch. We’ve got to continue to improve, and then we’ll go from there.’’

Thibodeau said last month that Rose could return at any point in the regular season or the postseason.

That would seem like a tough adjustment for a team, but guard Kirk Hinrich didn’t see it that way.

“These guys, especially the unit he’ll be playing with, they played with him last year,’’ Hinrich said. “I don’t think it’ll be too big of an adjustment. He’s that type of player who’s going to make plays for himself and everybody else. It’ll just make it easier, I think.’’

Speculation went up a notch this past weekend in Indiana when Rose sat on the bench during the game for the first time. In December, Thibodeau said Rose sitting on the bench could portend an imminent return. Then again, that was months ago, and this game has changed somewhat.

Whether it was Rose admitting he wouldn’t mind missing the rest of the season if he didn’t feel comfortable or whether it was Reggie Rose (Rose’s brother/manager) chiming in, little has gone as planned lately.

‘‘It’s day-to-day,’’ Thibodeau said. “Whenever he’s ready, he’s ready. We just want him to continue to improve, focus on his rehab, then when he’s ready to go, we’ll all know.’’

Besides, Thibodeau has enough on his plate against the Spurs.

Hinrich is doubtful with a sore right foot, guard Richard Hamilton stayed in Chicago with a sore back, forward Taj Gibson is sidelined with a sprained knee and forward Carlos Boozer was away from the team until Wednesday for a personal matter.

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