Derrick Rose has been cleared to play as many minutes as he wants to

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Derrick Rose has been cleared to play as many minutes as he wants to
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  • Derrick Rose
    Derrick Rose
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  • Joakim Noah
    Joakim Noah
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The Chicago Bulls have been working up a pretty trashy brand of basketball recently, watching as their offense goes flat while pairing that putrid play with absolutely terrible defense. The squad has lost six of eight since an impressive home win over the Houston Rockets on Jan. 5, and the team’s schedule only gets worse from here on out: Chicago is set to take on the Spurs, Mavericks, Heat and Warriors over a six-day stretch that takes them from Chicago to Texas, back to Chicago and then out to the Bay Area.

The Bulls are already without Joakim Noah, suffering from an ankle injury and the aftereffects of a knee surgery that the team’s not-to-be-trusted medical staff diagnosed as “minor” some eight and a half months ago. Injured swingmen Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Doug McDermott might be pushed back into the rotation during this stretch of games far earlier than they should, Dunleavy couldn’t run last week and it took a month for the Bulls to relent and submit that McDermott needed knee surgery after he was seen limping around with a knee sleeve to start the season.

Things are, well, they’re not rosy. Derrick Rose, however, is getting Rose-ier as the season moves along. His defense still stinks and he still takes way too many three-pointers, but he’s getting there.

And, at the behest of the team’s medical staff, he’ll be getting there more often. From K.C. Johnson at the Chicago Tribune:

But there's good news on the medical front. The Bulls have cleared Derrick Rose to play extended minutes if needed, sources said.

Rose is averaging 32.8 minutes in 10 January games. That's up from 30 minutes in December and 25.9 in November. Rose logged a season-high 37 minutes, 6 seconds in Saturday's loss to the Hawks.

"I feel great," Rose said recently of his health.

Derrick wasn’t exactly feeling “great” after his team’s last loss, and Rose has had some clunkers during this 2-6 stretch. He’s missed 23 of his last 36 shots, and tossed up a 3-15 games from the floor against the Utah Jazz. He also had a 32-point game against Washington’s strong defense, though, and two double-doubles (averaging 26 points and 10 assists in the games that followed) in the games that followed. His 37 minutes in a loss to Atlanta on Saturday were a season high. It is 14 months to the day of his last major knee injury, and it’s time to let him go.

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It was that second knee injury, a torn right meniscus, which was always going to be the one to worry about when it came to pushing minutes and activity. Scads of NBA players have hurt their pro careers by rushing back too quickly, resulting in even more invasive clean-up operations. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, you’ll recall, had to undergo two different operations in the wake of what might have been a too-aggressive rehab to the meniscus tear he suffered in the spring of 2013.

It’s true that Rose’s ACL tear in his left knee is a far more serious injury, and it’s also true that the only game he sat out this season due to knee issues was because of soreness in that left knee, but the right one is the one to worry about moving forward. After half a season of building up to this sort of run, however, the approach makes sense. If he feels pain, you sit him without asking questions. If he feels “great,” then you play him normal, superstar minutes.

The news comes with Chicago at a low point, with Rose rightfully second-guessing his team’s approach and with upcoming opponents that won’t make a statement turnaround win likely in the slightest. Rose’s minutes increase will help mask the pratfalls that come from playing Kirk Hinrich (a ball-stopping, pass-averse zero on offense whose defense is declining) too many minutes, but it won’t do much to cover up Pau Gasol’s defensive issues outside of the shot-blocking realm, and the weird decline in what should be a peak year for Taj Gibson.

And it won’t do much to cover up the absence of Joakim Noah, who for all but a few short bursts in December looked nothing like the player he was pre-surgery when he was fighting through pain to play.

Rose himself has to do better as well. His defense this season has been miserable, he’s not playing anywhere near an All-Star offensively even when looking at per-minute stats, and despite a hot shooting streak from outside (he’s made 18 of his last 32 from long range, 56 percent) he was shooting 23 percent from behind the arc before that run while still averaging a team-leading five attempts a game.

The Spurs, Mavericks, the Heat in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, and then the Warriors on Golden State’s home court. Things are definitely going to either get way worse before they get better, or the Noah-less Bulls could shock us by turning it all around against a killer schedule.

Either way, we get to see more of Derrick Rose. After seeing him just ten times in the previous two seasons, we’ll take it.

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Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!