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The path back for Rose will start with trust

This is what 2 ½ years off looks like.

It’s frustrating, it’s inconsistent, and for Bulls guard Derrick Rose, it’s been a real head-shaker through the first 36 games of the regular season.

Oh, there have been moments. Ask John Wall, who watched Rose go all playground on him two weeks ago in the nation’s capital, taking the game over late and dropping 25 on the Wizards All-Star. Before that, there was a Dec. 12, win over Portland in which Rose scored 31, shooting 14-for-24 from the field.

Plenty of splash plays to bring you back to 2011. Unfortunately, not enough to keep you there.

Two season-ending knee surgeries for Rose have left us all at this step. Where it goes now? Well, that’s on the No. 1.

Rose admittedly has been pacing himself through the early minutes of games. And far too often lately, he only seems to flip a switch when his pride is being challenged. Wall did it a few weeks back, while fellow Chicagoan Patrick Beverley pulled that out of Rose on Monday.

A mentality that is nowhere to be found in the Book of Thibodeau.

“I think you have to have the mindset that you don’t take possessions off and you fight through everything,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said, when asked if he thought Rose was picking his spots too often. “And you do it day after day after day. That’s what championship teams do. If that’s what we aspire to, that’s what we have to do.

“In terms of where [Rose] is right now, I think he’s making steady progress. He hasn’t shot the ball well, but he’s run the team fairly well. You have to understand that he’s been out for 2 ½ years. When you get away from that competition for 2 ½ years it doesn’t come back in a week. You have to compete in practice, you have to compete getting yourself ready, and you have to keep going.’’

Words that Rose doesn’t seem to be hearing all the time.

Forget the 25.5 (28-for-110) shooting percentage over the last six games. Sure, not enough attacking the rim, too many errant jumpers. Not one teammate is upset with that, however, because for the most part the film has shown that the decisions have been tolerable.

“Any teammate that takes good shots and is not forcing anything, you always have to be more than OK with it,’’ Pau Gasol said, when asked about Rose’s slump. “Just to continue to encourage taking good shots, try and take better shots, high-percentage shots. Get more into the lane and get yourself going that way. Just find ways to get yourself going and more into a rhythm.’’

This from a man who played with Kobe Bryant, so was well-versed in having his patience tested.

No, the concerns with Rose are still trust. Not trust that a dominant guard is still in there, but that Rose will let it come out.

Too many going through-the-motion moments on the court, and too many minutes restrictions and health concerns off of it.

It’s time for Rose to start trusting his coaching staff, his teammates, and himself, rather than “what if’’ health scares and scenarios.

The guard often talks about the “big picture.’’ That big picture shouldn’t just focus on longevity. Not when there’s a championship to be won with this current roster.

If he doesn’t see that then the last 2 ½ years off didn’t just change Rose’s game. It completely changed the man.