By Mike McGraw
The opening of NBA training camp is the perfect time to imagine glorious possibilities. When the games start, a different reality could spoil those dreams.
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The Bulls are in an odd spot, waiting for Derrick Rose to return from ACL surgery. That date is likely to arrive in February or March.
On Monday, Rose joined in the spirit of a new season by imagining his next step onto an NBA court.
"I'm going to be a better player, but who knows in what area?" Rose said at the Berto Center. "My legs have never been this strong before. My upper body has never been this strong before. My core has never been this strong before. I'm going to see how far this takes me.
"I don't know how I'm going to play. I don't know what's going to be new about my game. I just know it's going to be exciting for everyone to see."
It all sounds great for Bulls fans, but first comes several months of pesky waiting. Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee April 28 in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series against Philadelphia.
Across the floor Monday, the players who will carry on without Rose posed for photos, sat for interviews and hammed it up for United Center scoreboard videos.
The starting lineup is expected to include second-time Bull Kirk Hinrich at point guard, with Richard Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Deng has no plans to have surgery to repair the torn ligament in his left wrist, an injury that happened Jan. 21.
"I think we've got a chance to be good," Hinrich said. "We've got a lot of good players. We have all-stars; Rip's won a championship. The guys they added can really help us. Time will tell."
Several newcomers were brought in to rebuild the bench. Forwards Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler return, joined by shooting guard Marco Belinelli, point guard Nate Robinson, range-shooting forward Vladimir Radmanovic, veteran center Nazr Mohammed and rookie guard Marquis Teague.
"I don't know where we're going to end up, but I like the makeup of the new guys," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I like the makeup of the guys that are returning. I think the important thing is to do the right things every day.
"If they can do that, they don't have to worry about the results. The results will take care of themselves."
Thibodeau stressed that he wants Rose focused on rehab and everyone else concentrating on the next opponent, not the long-awaited return of the team's superstar.
"We're going to talk about Derrick today," Thibodeau added. "We're not going to give daily updates as we move forward."
General manager Gar Forman refused to put a date on Rose's comeback, settling for a blanket promise that Rose will return to action when he's ready to return.
But Rose noticed that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson played in a football game roughly nine months after tearing his ACL. Not long before that injury, Rose met Peterson at video game commercial shoot.
"It's definitely exciting," Rose said of Peterson's rapid return. "Right now I'm at a stage where I didn't start cutting yet, I'm about two weeks away from that where I'm starting to cut.
"Right now cutting is the hardest thing in the world. I'm scared of it. Right when I get that out of my system, I think I'll be pretty close. Hopefully it won't take the whole year."
Rose stressed that he's trying to do all the right things. He's doing most of his rehab at the Berto Center, so his teammates can see he's doing well. So far, he has resisted the urge to do anything more than his scheduled rehab.
"There have been times when I feel like I could jump, run around, do all these things," Rose said. "But I might injure myself and I try to stay away from that and just stay focused. … No one should be worrying about me."
Worry has surely subsided since that horrible moment when Rose crumpled to the court in that April playoff game. Now it's waiting for the calendar to move that's the hardest part.