Derrick Rose’s absence looms over Bulls
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
DEERFIELD, Ill. — As Kirk Hinrich arrives at the Chicago Bulls training facility for a morning workout, expecting to be the only one there, he can hear a ball bouncing, echoing through the gym.
He spots star point guard Derrick Rose going through a drill, accompanied by a knee brace and drenched in sweat from the workout.
“That’s one of the reasons why I came back here,” said Hinrich, who signed as a free agent in the offseason with the Bulls, the team that drafted him.
As Chicago prepares to start the 2012-13 season without Rose, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the first round of last season’s playoffs and has been rehabbing since surgery in May, players are emphasizing he is still very much a part of the team.
“It’s great to see him out there working hard, to see how bad he wants it and know how much he wants to play. It helps motivate us,” said Hinrich, who was a mentor for Rose in his first two seasons in the league. “It’s what everybody expected. I didn’t expect anything less.”
Rose said he has purposely been in the gym to show his teammates the progress he was making.
“I just want to show them that I’m working hard, show them that it’s paying off,” Rose said. “That’s why I come in early, just to let everybody know that I’m all right, take the pressure off.
“I think we can still be good, knowing the character of this team.”
Rose’s teammates haven’t been the only ones to notice his drive to return.
“I don’t think that in the 30-plus years I’ve been in basketball, I’ve seen an athlete attack his rehab the way that Derrick has,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said.
Rose’s return could be as early as February, but Forman doesn’t want to put out a specific time frame and made it clear Rose wouldn’t be out on the court until he was fully healthy.
The Bulls will have to find their identity without the 2010-11 MVP, something the team was forced to do for 27 games last season with Rose sidelined by lesser injuries.