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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose said Tuesday that his team is going to make the playoffs.
He has seen the standings. He knows his team came into Tuesday night's game against the Phoenix Suns a game behind the Toronto Raptors for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but he didn't care. He has confidence that his team will prevail over the final games of the season. He says he hasn't even considered the possibility of coming up short.
"We're still going to make it," he told ESPNChicago.com after Tuesday morning's shootaround. "You can't think about stuff like [not making the playoffs].
"In my mind, we'll be making the eighth spot. We'll be playing LeBron [James] -- playing Cleveland. The closer we get, the [more] I'm going to think that. We can't walk around acting like we're not going to make it, because that's when things turn on you. Our biggest goal is to make the playoffs, and we're going to make it."
Rose won two state championships at Chicago's Simeon Academy, helped guide Memphis to the 2008 NCAA championship game and led the Bulls to an epic first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics last season. But the 21-year-old All-Star admitted he's never been part of a season quite like this, with the Bulls battling inconsistency and injuries throughout the year.
"It's tough," Rose said. "But that's why it's the NBA. [Unless] you're a team like Cleveland and the Lakers, you're not going to come out and just win 50 or 60 games, or something like that."You're going to have to fight, and that's what we're in right now. Hopefully, it just prepares us for the future, and ... helps us grow as an organization, as a whole."
Despite all the trials and tribulations, Rose is enjoying a stellar season despite battling an injured ankle in the opening weeks. He's averaging 20 points, six assists and four rebounds after his rookie-of-the-year campaign last season.
"I've learned a lot of things," he said. "If anything, I just feel way more comfortable."In situations I know what to do ... I think every year you play in the NBA you just learn more stuff. And it gives you more comfort to go out there and play."
For the time being, the only thing Rose is focused on is getting his team to the playoffs to square off against James and the Cavs. It's a matchup that clearly excites the young star.
"Yeah, it's fun, man," he said of the possibility. "The crowd is going to be crazy. Media is going to be crazy. A once-in-a-lifetime type of ordeal right there. Why not?"Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com.