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Bulls beat Jazz in final seconds, but Derrick Rose still the story

Marco Belinelli shoots winning three-pointer Friday over Jazz’s Mo Williams. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Marco Belinelli shoots the winning three-pointer Friday over the Jazz’s Mo Williams. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 10, 2013 6:17AM

The Bulls beat the Jazz 89-88 on Marco Belinelli’s three-pointer with 5.9 seconds left Friday before another packed house of 21,842 delirious fans at the United Center.

But it’s going to take a lot more than that to keep Derrick Rose from being the only Bulls story that matters these days.

‘‘My son asks me every day, ‘Dad, when is Derrick coming back?’ ’’ guard Nate Robinson said. ‘‘I’m like, ‘I don’t know, man.’ ’’

Nobody knows, man. Worst of all, not even Rose seems to know, which has sent the mood of Bulls fans plummeting from anticipation to anxiety to angst. When Michael Jordan missed 64 games with a broken foot in 1985-86, he announced his return three days in advance. And while that wasn’t an ACL, it was complicated enough — Jordan returned nearly three months after the original target date — that the fear of a career-threatening aggravation of the injury was a part of the debate.

Even considering the seriousness of Rose’s knee injury, his return is seemingly becoming more complicated than it needs to be, or certainly more complicated than it was expected to be.

It took another wrong turn Friday morning when it was reported that Rose had been cleared by the Bulls to return but refuses to play again until he can dunk on his injured left leg — an apparent psychological hurdle that seems contrary to the nature of a former league MVP.

And the eroding anticipation of Rose’s return took another hit when coach Tom Thibodeau opened the door a little further to the possibility that Rose might not return this season.

‘‘We’re prepared either way,’’ Thibodeau said when asked if he still expects Rose to return. ‘‘We’ll see what happens.’’

Thibodeau appeared to refute the ‘‘medical clearance’’ report when he addressed the Rose issue again before the game.

‘‘He’s been cleared to do everything,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘But before he makes the final step, everyone has to get together and sign off. And that hasn’t happened yet. The most important part of this is we have to trust Derrick. And I trust him.’’

Trust was the theme of Thibodeau’s pregame comments on the Rose situation.

‘‘We knew going in that this [long rehabilitation] was going to be the case, so I trust Derrick implicitly,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘When he’s ready, he’ll let us know. He’s heeded Jerry Reinsdorf’s advice from the beginning. Be patient. Be diligent. Do your work. Concentrate on the rehab. And when he’s ready to go, he’ll go.’’

Believe it or not, Thibodeau, in his own little coaching world, has bigger problems. Richard Hamilton (back), Kirk Hinrich (foot) and Taj Gibson (sprained knee) also missed the game. Hamilton, who has missed five consecutive games, will not travel with the team on the upcoming three-game West Coast trip (Lakers, Kings, Warriors).

The toll on the Bulls is obvious. With almost everybody but Rose, the Bulls were 28-17 at the end of January, a game ahead of the Pacers. They’re 7-10 since and have fallen four games behind the Pacers. They struggled at home to beat a fading Jazz team that had lost five of six coming in. With injuries piling up, everything seems to be tougher than it should be these days. Only Rose can solve that problem.

‘‘We can’t wait on him,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘We have to find ways to win now. Hopefully at some point, he’ll be ready to go. No one wants to play more than he does. We have to trust him.’’

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