LeBron James and Dwyane Wade said they will embrace Derrick Rose after the Cavaliers point guard returned to Cleveland Clinic Courts on Monday to resume treatment on his sprained left ankle.
A rash of injuries starting in 2012, the season after he was named the league's youngest MVP, had reportedly taken a mental toll on Rose, 29. He left the team on Nov. 22 to ponder his basketball future.
While coach Tyronn Lue estimated Rose could be "a couple weeks" away from playing, that didn't seem to matter to his teammates.
"We're excited about his return," James said before shootaround at United Center. "None of us can understand what he's going through. It's impossible to just ... you just don't know. I support him, whatever he's going through, and (will) be a shield for him if he wants to use us. Hopefully he wants to use us. Just try to keep his mind on basketball and help him with everything else."
Wade said the Cavs haven't talked about Rose much since they initially discussed his departure. Taking an 11-game winning streak into Monday night's game against the Bulls, they've been concerned with the grind of the season.
Asked if any trust had to be regained as Rose returns, Wade said, "When D-Rose is a Cleveland Cavalier, he walks back in that door, you want to embrace everybody. Just like I wanted to be embraced when I came here. It takes time. It takes time to build trust and all those things, but it will happen. He's one of us. When he walks back through those doors we'll embrace him as such."
Lue wouldn't say where Rose was and didn't know if he had been rehabbing his ankle, initially hurt in Game 2 at Milwaukee. The injury has limited him to seven games with the Cavs.
As for his expectation when Rose can return to action, Lue said, "I think a couple more weeks. But not quite sure. But I know he started his rehab right now so we'll see.
"We got to get healthy first. That's the biggest thing. Get healthy, do his rehab and then we'll go from there."
Signed to a one-year, veteran's minimum deal on July 25, Rose has averaged 14.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 26.9 minutes. He'd been the starting point guard as the Cavs await Isaiah Thomas' return from a torn labrum in his right hip before Jan. 1.
Lue said Rose "wants to be back and he wants to play."
"He's too young. Too young, too talented to give it up this early," Lue said. "I know he's frustrated, but I'm glad he's in a good place now and we're glad to have him back. Whatever he needs from the coaches, from the organization, from the players, we're here for him. We've always been here for him since Day 1."
In a statement, Cavs general manager Koby Altman said, "This has been a very challenging and difficult time for Derrick. We will continue to provide him with support and have patience as he re-joins his teammates and works his way back on to the court."
Wade said he expects Rose to talk to the team when they see him, likely at shootaround before Wednesday's home game against Sacramento.
"I'm sure he's going to have a conversation with guys. That's the way it goes in this league. When most guys have their moment when they talk to the team and they say the things they need to say and then the team moves on," Wade said. "As we said early on, we understand. I'm sure we've all had a point where we've all been frustrated about different things in this game, injuries, playing time or roles, etc.
"And sometimes you need to get away. It can happen in the middle of the game, you just want to get out of the game. We respect him for getting away and making his decision. As a team we have to continue to keep going this way, keep trending upward, and we were able to do that. We'd love for him to join us. He's playing good basketball. A guy that's scoring 14 points a game, in a different role before his injury. You want to be able to have those guys on your team."
James said it isn't necessary for Rose to reveal what prompted his departure.
"We don't know what he's going through," James said. "He doesn't owe us an explanation. We just hope that we can be his support system and if he needs something to say or wants to get it out, then we'll be open and listen and then welcome him back in. We happy that he's not giving up on his love at this point in his life and his career and he's ready to return back to Cleveland."
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