CHICAGO – More than 90 minutes remain before another Bulls tipoff at the United Center, and Derrick Rose is the only player on the court.
It’s clear that Rose has been out here for a while.
About three-fourths of Rose’s red warm-up T-shirt is drenched with sweat. The perspiration darkens his shirt in a U-shape that dips to the middle of his stomach and his lower back.
As Rose practices jump shot after jump shot, he follows a specific pattern.
He starts by taking several shots from the right baseline, then the right elbow, then the top of the key, then the left elbow, and finally the left baseline. He then circles back in the opposite direction toward the right baseline, making every stop along the way.
The 60-minute countdown clock has yet to start, and most of the stadium’s 21,000-plus seats remain empty. A song by Train – “Hey, Soul Sister” – blares from speakers above.
Rose is hard at work.
Dribble, step, jump, release: Swish.
Dribble, step, jump, release: Miss.
Dribble, step, jump, release: Swish.
On and on it goes.
No brace covers Rose’s left knee, which has been the most talked-about body part in the city since he tore his ACL and crumpled to the court on April 28 in the Bulls’ playoff opener. Today, Rose shows no sign of a limp, but he works at about half-speed and does not cut side to side.
No one has put a date on when Rose will return. Whatever the date, it is getting closer.
Maybe Rose will be back when the Bulls return home Feb. 11 after a six-game road trip. Maybe he’ll be back Feb. 19 after the All-Star break. Or maybe the Bulls will play it safe and hold Rose out until March, which still would give him a few weeks to get ready for the playoffs.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is asked about the subject all the time, including Monday.
“He’s coming along,” Thibodeau said. “He still has a ways to go.”
As always, Thibodeau is tight-lipped about his MVP point guard. He acknowledges that Rose is taking part in certain aspects of practice. He offers little else in the way of details.
Asked whether Rose remains limited by doctors in any way, Thibodeau shuts down.
“He’s doing fine.”
A walk through the stadium’s tunnels and to the court provides more clarity.
Rose continues to shoot, seemingly oblivious to anything other than the ball and the basket. More fans file into the building. Pop songs continue to blast through the speakers.
“We are not afraid …”
“Oh, sometimes, I get a good a feeling …”
“I’m looking to the sky to save me …”
A few teammates such as Nate Robinson, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah joined Rose to practice jump shots, but they’re gone by now. They need to stay fresh for the game.
But Rose is determined to push his muscles to their limits.
It’s anyone’s guess as to how many shots he has taken by now.
Rose is getting tired, too. He hits the front end of the rim on a jump shot from the key. He hits the front end again. Finally, he forces one through the net.
That shot seems like a good stopping point.
Rose has other ideas.
He switches to his left hand and hits a mid-range shot. He fires up a few lefty 3s, as well, although most of those attempts clank off of the rim.
Rose’s upper body is strong, all right.
As for his left knee, we won’t know for sure until he attacks the basket during a game.
The next song that fills the stadium is by Mumford & Sons, a folk band from England.
It’s called “I Will Wait.” Maybe you’ve heard it.
“And I will wait, I will wait, for you…"
“And I will wait, I will wait, for you…”
Rose has worked his way to the right baseline. He once again is shooting with his right hand.
Rose turns his head and extends his arms toward a ball boy. His lips are easy to read.
• Northwest Herald columnist Tom Musick can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @tcmusick.