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Thibs, Bulls refuse to shut door on Derrick Rose return for playoffs

Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose stretches before an NBA basketball game against Miami HeMiami Sunday April 14 2013. The Hew105-93.

Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose stretches before an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat in Miami, Sunday, April 14, 2013. The Heat won 105-93. (AP Photo/El Nuevo Herald, David Santiago) MAGS OUT

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Updated: April 22, 2013 4:42PM



There always has been that sliver of light shining through the crack.

With growing hope expressed by teammates that Derrick Rose could step on the court for Game 1 of the playoffs, coach Tom Thibodeau kept that possibility alive.

“It could be,’’ Thibodeau said. “He’s still not ready. We feel good about the guys we do have, and we just want to keep improving and let Derrick handle his rehab and just be ready for whoever we’re facing.’’

The Bulls closed out the regular season without Rose. He went through his usual pregame routine before the game Wednesday against the Washington Wizards.

Joakim Noah has maintained all season that he thought Rose would play, and Carlos Boozer was the latest player to express that sentiment.

But it’s all up to Rose. If he reaches the point where he’s not thinking and just reacting, he’s a go.

“Whenever he’s ready, we’re going to welcome him back because, obviously, he adds a lot to the team,’’ Thibodeau said. “It’s the same as [Noah] and Taj [Gibson]. They come back and they’re playing limited minutes, but it’s a big plus to the team just because of what their strengths are. All those guys are team-oriented, and it makes your team a lot better.’’

Even in limited minutes, Rose would give the Bulls enough of a boost to change the landscape of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

“Again, [Rose is] the type of player that makes everybody better, but so is Joakim,’’ Thibodeau said. “You can’t overlook the fact that guys who pass the ball make your team a lot better. Just Jo being out there for 15 minutes [Monday against the Orlando Magic] really helped our ball movement.’’

Thibodeau, however, put to rest any idea that Rose already had informed the team that he’d play in the first game of the postseason.

“No, no,’’ Thibodeau said. “It hasn’t changed from the start of the season. Our team has to get ready for whoever we’re playing. Derrick has to handle his rehab, and if he can join us, great. If not, we’re going to make the most of our circumstances, and we feel good about where we are.

‘‘We’ve had an entire season to prepare ourselves, and I like our chances if we have the group that played all season.’’

That doesn’t mean the possibility of Rose returning isn’t at least intriguing.

When asked if he thought Rose would make a playoff appearance, swingman Jimmy Butler said, “I don’t know.’’

The big smile accompanying his reply, however, is the reason that door isn’t about to close.



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