- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose’s teammates want him back as soon as possible. But Luol Deng seemed to capture the locker-room consensus when the topic of Rose's return came up after Thursday night's 89-80 win over the Boston Celtics.
"We're capable," Deng said of playing without Rose. "We've got enough. We've got enough to win games. Do we want him back? Yes. But if he's not 100 percent, it's not worth it."
That is precisely why the Bulls shouldn't bring back until he is feeling healed.
Tom Thibodeau can talk all he wants about how he doesn't look at opposing team's records when evaluating when Rose should be back on the floor, but his players certainly do. They know they only have three games left before the All-Star break and they know only one of those games comes against a team with a winning record (the Atlanta Hawks on Monday afternoon).
The Bulls can win all three games without Rose. With that, Thibodeau should give Rose another week off heading into the All-Star break before putting him back on the floor. Even if Rose wakes up Friday morning and says he feels great, what's the rush? As Deng noted, playing -- and winning -- without Rose is giving the Bulls even more confidence.
"Definitely," Deng said. "We're so much better with him. He's so dominant and it makes the game easier for everyone. Him being out, really gives everyone else a role to step out. [Guys have to] fill in for Derrick and hopefully that kind of helps everyone get in a comfort zone later on when he comes back ... guys will be used to that."
Rose has said repeatedly that it's "killing" him not to be out there with his teammates, but Deng the 23-year-old must see the bigger picture. The games in May and June are a lot more important than the ones in the middle of February.
"He's listening," Deng said. "He's just very competitive. He wants to be out there with us. This is a guy who's not used to sitting out. I keep telling him, you're going to play in this league for a long time. Every year is going to be different. You've just got to be smart about it."
That's the message all of his teammates want him to understand. They know how important he is to the team, but they also realize that if he isn't his old self when he comes back, it won't do him, or them, any good in the long run.
"Derrick's like one of our main soldiers," Bulls' center Joakim Noah said. "We don't ever want to see him down. I don't think it gives us extra confidence [playing without him], I think we're all confident in our abilities, but we know we're not getting to where we want to get to without that guy. We know that we need Pooh healthy."
That's why is so important that Thibodeau listens to his own players in this case. How much is really to be gained by playing Rose against the New Jersey Nets, Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks before the break. Knowing Rose, he will try to be out there as soon as possible, but even if he says he is 100 percent, why not wait a few more days after that?
"Derrick, man, he's so competitive," Deng said. "He wants to be out there so bad. I could see it. Everyone sees it. I keep telling him, 'We just got to be smart. It is what it is, but don't come back [if] you're not 100 percent.' We're going to try and win these games ‘til he comes back.
With the way the Bulls have played this season, they probably will.
"We're not satisfied," Noah said. "We could definitely play better. I think that's a positive. We're definitely not playing our best basketball right now. I think when you add guys like Derrick and guys like Rip back, it could get ugly."
10hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
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