CHICAGO | The huge media crowd parted slowly as Bulls superstar Derrick Rose entered the United Center press room on white crutches Thursday.
Rose sat down, then smiled as he scanned the room.
"What's up?" he asked.
Rose spoke publicly for the first time since his Nov. 25 season-ending surgery for a torn medial meniscus. Unfortunately, his 40-minute news conference probably was 30 minutes too long, given its puzzling content and contradictions.
“If I’m healthy and the situation is right, I’m going to be back playing," Rose said. "If I’m healthy and my meniscus is fully healed, of course I’ll be out there playing.
"But if it’s something totally different and the outcome is not how I would want it to be, there’s no need.”
The Bulls, in their original news release, had flat-out said Rose would be gone for the season.
Management and coach Tom Thibodeau certainly don't want the daily third-degree they endured when Rose missed last season with a torn ACL in his left knee.
Rose spoke about his Adidas contract and all the great promotions they had planned, plus other endorsement deals, before this injury, but nobody cared to hear that.
"I'm going to miss a long period of time without playing but knowing I (still) have a bright future ... I'm all right,'' he said. "My faith is good. My spirit is good."
Rose talked about spending more time now with his toddler son, which was nice to hear, but continued referencing the current 2013-14 season.
"I'm not done. (God's) preparing me for something bigger," Rose said. "I know I'm gonna be back on the court pretty soon."
He added that his punishing style of play — the twisting, the hard landings, the incredible torque his body is subjected to, the bruising falls — will not change.
"It was kind of a freak accident," Rose said of the meniscus injury. "If I tear something 10 times, I'm gonna play the same way. That's the way I play. It's a unique way I can't change."
The more Rose spoke, the more he gave fans reason to think he could return for the postseason.
"I've been in this position all my life as an underdog," he said.
The NBA's youngest MVP in 2011, Rose has played in just 50 games since leading the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals that season.
He'll make $17.6 million this season and has three years remaining on a five-year, $94 million extension.
Late in the news conference, Rose was asked if given the injuries and chances the team could soon be overhauled, might the Bulls consider "moving on" without him?
Rose looked stunned, then angry, taking nearly 20 seconds to respond.
"You can be a fool if you want to," he said. "I know I'm gonna be all right."