CHICAGO -- On May 15, three days after surgically repairing Derrick Rose's left anterior cruciate ligament, Bulls' team physician Brian Cole summarized the final step of Rose's eight- to 12-month rehabilitation.
"There's actually a lot of therapeutic benefit to starting with early minutes when it's safe," Cole said then. "You have to play to play. All these muscle patterns have to kick in. You can do that off the court informally. But there's a lot of benefit to playing.
"Whether he has to go 40 minutes, that's a whole different story. Just getting out there and playing when he's able, that's when his exponential growth is going to come."
This is where Rose's rehabilitation has been since Feb. 18, the day Cole and everyone surrounding Rose signed off on him scrimmaging five-on-five at full speed with full contact and full court. Once Rose cleared that step with no setbacks -- a step that wouldn't have occurred if any risk of re-injury remained -- the only hurdle left for Rose was to declare himself physically and mentally ready for game action.
Rose, according to public comments he made in mid-February and what he continues to tell team officials and those close to him, isn't ready yet. Next week will mark the 10-month mark since his surgery.
In other words, Rose remains squarely within his rehabilitation window, although coach Tom Thibodeau said the team is prepared for Rose returning or not this season.
"I trust Derrick implicitly," Thibodeau said. "When he's ready, he'll let us know. He's heeding (team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf's) advice from the beginning. Be patient. Be diligent. Do your work. Concentrate on the rehab. And when he's ready to go, he'll go."
ESPNChicago.com, citing a team source, reported Friday that Rose's doctor has cleared him to play in games but that Rose has told the team he won't play until he can dunk "confidently off his left foot ... in a game situation." The report didn't specify if that physician was Cole, whom the team has made off-limits to reporters.
Thibodeau said that decision "hasn't been finalized yet" but reiterated the most important voice is Rose's. This jibes consistently with what Rose told reporters Feb. 13 in Boston.
"It's really on me to make that decision when I'm going to play again," Rose said that night. "That's cool that they left it up to me."