By Mike McGraw
Derrick Rose might be preaching patience, or he could be trying to build suspense for his impending return.
Rose made his first public comments since Oct. 1 in an interview with USA Today and didn't offer any concrete date for playing in an NBA game. He tore the ACL in his left knee last April 28.
"I don't have a set date," Rose said. "I'm not coming back until I'm 110 percent. Who knows when that can be? It can be within a couple of weeks. It could be next year. It could be any day. It could be any time.
"It's just that I'm not coming back until I'm ready."
Rose did offer a current assessment of his rehab, saying he's probably in the "high 80s," percentage-wise.
"Far away, far away," he added.
OK, so we finally have an answer. Rose has roughly 23 percent to go before he reaches his target 110 percent.
If it took him 9½ months to reach the upper 80s, the math says he will be back right around April 28 of this year. Or not. It's difficult to say.
What we do know is Rose and the Bulls are at least saying the same things about the rehab process. The plan is for the franchise player to play it conservatively and not talk about any target date.
"He has to do his rehab and then at some point, he'll rejoin us and we'll go from there," coach Tom Thibodeau said Tuesday at the Berto Center. "Nothing has changed."
Frustrating as the waiting game may be for Bulls fans, the Rose rehab story hasn't changed much since the surgery occurred in May. A return date was placed at 10-12 months away.
The astonishing sub-nine-month recovery by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson provided some hope that Rose might hit the floor sooner. Oak Park native Iman Shumpert tore his ACL on the same day as Rose and played for the New York Knicks on Jan. 17.
Keep in mind that Rose doesn't play once a week like Peterson and he's not a defensive-minded role player like Shumpert.
An argument could be made that no player in the NBA -- maybe in all of the major professional sports -- puts more stress on his legs than Rose, with his blazing speed, quick cuts and acrobatic drives to the basket.
The Bulls' preference all along has been for Rose to play again this season but use it as more of an acclimation process, a chance to regain his confidence, not a run to the NBA Finals.
Sam Smith, writing for bulls.com, has pushed the conservative approach, writing that he doesn't expect Rose to play before March, which probably is telling.
Maybe it's possible that the team's success to this point (No. 4 seed in the East) has caused management to be even more conservative with Rose's rehab.
It will be tough to rein him in if his competitive juices -- not to mention Thibodeau's -- kick in during a first-round playoff series against Brooklyn, not to mention a potential overdue Miami rematch in Round 2.
USA Today promised more details from Rose's interview would arrive later. There was one more quote in which he talked about what may be in store.
"I know it's going to be something good," Rose said. "With all this hard work I've been putting into my game, I'm doing stuff I never did before. I gained 10, 11 pounds of muscle. I don't know what type of player I'm going to be, I just know that I'm going to be very good."
Thibodeau was asked if he's concerned Rose won't be the same player he was before the injury.
"Not at all. I see the things he's doing every day," Thibodeau said. "He's coming along fine. He'll be fine."
And the upper 80 percent assessment?
"If that's what he's saying," Thibodeau said. "You guys know Derrick. He's going to tell you honestly where he is. He has to keep working. He's making good progress."
The fans may not be holding up as well, but the waiting game is tough to win.