Derrick Rose will 'listen to [his] body,' but there's 'a good chance' he'll return this season

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In his first public comments since undergoing surgery to remove the damaged portion of the torn medial meniscus in his right knee, Derrick Rose said he still aims to return to the Chicago Bulls this season. But the former NBA Most Valuable Player did not offer any guarantees or assurances that he will do so, repeatedly emphasizing the need to "listen to [his] body" as he rehabilitates.

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During an interview session with reporters prior to the Bulls' Monday meeting with the Memphis Grizzlies, Rose said he feels good and is "in a positive space right now," but presented no firm timetable for when he'll return to the Bulls lineup.

"Who knows?" Rose responded to the first question on when he plans to come back. "Whenever I feel well, that's when I'll step back on the court."

Does he expect that feeling to come this season?

"I think so," he said. "That's the plan, so whenever I feel right, that's when I'll step back."

That, of course, is more open-ended than the timeline the Bulls laid out after Rose's Feb. 27 meniscectomy, when they pegged their starting point guard's recovery framework at four to six weeks. The short side of that timeline pegs Rose's estimated return at March 27, when the Bulls will have nine games remaining on their regular-season schedule. The far end brings us to April 10, three games before the end of the Bulls' season and eight days before the start of the 2015 playoffs.

Multiple reports have suggested that Rose — who said Monday he'd been "probably been playing on [the torn meniscus] for a month," and that he remembered "feeling something" as far back as when the Bulls knocked off the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 27 — is on the same page with the team about the four-to-six-week plan. He declined to take the bait on Monday when asked whether or not he was OK with Bulls brass publicizing that timeline after his surgery.

"Um, who cares?" Rose said. "I'm not even thinking about that right now. I'm thinking about just getting the most out of every day."

For the time being, that means continuing to attack his rehabilitation plan, which currently consists of "a little bit of shooting and a bunch of squats, quad stuff" in the interest of "rebuilding mass on my quad and my hamstring." He also said he was interested in working harder on his balance, something that he said he felt he might not have focused on enough in his initial return, and that the opportunity to rehab "could be a blessing in disguise to give me enough time to really work on all the lingering injuries that I had during the season and work on my body a little bit more."

Rose said he can't jump right now, but he's able to take shots and work on conditioning, which he expects to be a challenge in the early going whenever he comes back.

"That's going to be the hardest thing, coming back in condition," he said. "Of course, I'm going to be out of shape a little bit, when you miss so many weeks or so many days of basketball [...] it comes along with the territory. But I'm going to try my hardest. I'm killing every workout right now. It's just that, conditioning-wise, it's going to be the hardest thing."

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There are those, however — both those fans who build shrines for his haunted pins and those (as predicted) frustrated by the persistent ambiguity and absence of "I'll be back" guarantees — who will continue to view simply getting Rose back on the court at all as a larger issue and question mark than how long he'll be able to go full-speed without huffing and puffing.

Despite those concerns, and the dominant perception that the Bulls — who entered Monday in third place in the Eastern Conference at 39-25, a half-game behind the No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers — can't contend for a title without a healthy Rose in the lineup, the point guard insists he doesn't feel an additional compulsion to try to come back any faster.

"Nah, no pressure at all. Especially not with this team," he said. "We've got a great team. If anything, my teammates are probably — they are thinking, and telling me, to take my time and make sure I'm really healthy when I come back.

"The year that the Dallas Mavericks won it, nobody had them even making it that far in the playoffs, let alone winning the championship," he later added. "I think that we're more talented than they were that year. It's all about just getting us all on the court together, playing well and who knows? When we're put up against that wall, we may show something special."

The difference there, of course, is that the 2010-11 Mavericks had their top guns — Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd and Tyson Chandler — healthy and fully operational come the postseason. The Bulls will be making the stretch run without Rose, with All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler working his way back from a sprained left elbow and with critical reserve forward Taj Gibson nursing a sprained left ankle.

The Bulls may be able to hold down the fort during the regular season with a patchwork crew. There's perhaps no NBA head coach better equipped to make chicken salad out of chicken feathers than head coach Tom Thibodeau, and even calling this Bulls team "chicken salad" does a disservice to the likes of finally-healthy-again center Joakim Noah, double-double machine Pau Gasol, intriguing rookie Nikola Mirotic, steady shooter Mike Dunleavy Jr., improving swingman Tony Snell and the coterie of backup guards out of whom Thibodeau always seems to extract maximum value, played in this year's Chicago rotation by Aaron Brooks and national TV hero E'Twaun Moore.

There's both high-end talent and depth in the Bulls locker room, which is why so many observers considered Chicago to be a championship contender on paper at the start of the season.

"I think all the players that's injured know how good we are once we come back and everybody's healthy," Rose said Monday.

That's an awful big "once," though, especially with Rose — although he remains hopeful — again making no guarantees that his comeback will come before the start of the postseason.

"I want to [come back during the regular season]. I want to," he said. "But it's all about how I'm feeling at the time. Really listen to my body and really take my time."

Which leaves open the possibility that he won't be back before the playoffs start.

"Yeah," he said. "But the way I'm feeling right now, it's a good chance that I'll come back."

It is, to be sure, far less certainty than the Bulls or their fans would probably like to hear from their leader. For now, though, Rose's optimism, commitment to do his best to return, and belief that not even three knee surgeries in three years can derail him will have to be enough.

"It's not trust in my body. It's trust in faith," Rose said. "I been gave my life up to God a long time ago, so all this is out of my control. All I can do is just roll with the punches and know that, at the end, I'm going to be fine. [...] I'm trying to take all this in. This can be a blessing in disguise."

Video via @_MarcusD_.

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

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