Derrick Rose starts against Orlando

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ORLANDO, Fla. – A team source stated on Tuesday that “there could be a surprise’’ coming on Wednesday.


Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau announced before the morning shootaround that as long as there were no setbacks before game time, Derrick Rose would in fact make his return to the court after missing the last 20 games in the wake of a Feb. 27 right knee surgery.

The plan is to keep the point guard on a 20-minute restriction against the Magic, and if he comes out of the game feeling good then he’ll be right back in there Thursday night in Miami.

As for Rose, he was his usual even-keeled self.

“Feels the same,’’ Rose said, when asked about his excitement level of a return. “I’ve been putting a lot of work in, busting my ass to get back. I’m just happy that I’m able to come back to a team where I think we’re playing alright basketball. I think defensively we’re playing good. Offensively, I shouldn’t have to worry about it, just come back and play the way I normally play.’’

The Bulls went 10-10 without Rose in this latest stint, but still maintained the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference without their highest-paid player.

As for Rose, he began taking contact in practice last week, but his conditioning in that time off was still a concern.

“I’m going to be winded for sure,’’ Rose said. “Just missing so many weeks, so many days, you’re going to be winded. That comes along with coming back from surgery and not playing the game in a couple weeks.

“It gave me a little time to rest. Everybody else is beating each other up. I’m coming in fresh. I will come in better. So it’s a little bit of excitement on my end.’’

There was no plan in place to up Rose’s minutes to a certain number by the playoffs, but with just five regular-season games left, there’s not a ton of wiggle room, either.

Not only will Rose have to build his conditioning back up, but also find the rhythm of his shot, as well as getting in sync with his teammates once again.

“Who knows?’’ Rose said, when asked if five games would be enough time. “I got a lot of confidence in myself. But who knows how many games it’s going to take me. All I can do is just continue to work on my game and push my teammates for this playoff run.’’

Which was all Thibodeau could ask for.

“Whatever it was going to be, we’re going to make the best of those circumstances,’’ Thibodeau said. “We’re just glad he’s back. So that’s the big thing.’’

The Bulls are 6-3 over their last nine games, and have been playing above average basketball, but Thibodeau feels that Rose’s presence makes them even better.

“Him just being there is a plus for our team,’’ Thibodeau said. “I’m not expecting him to play 35 minutes, score 30 points. Play to your strengths, cover up your weaknesses, make your teammates better. That’s all I want him to do.’’

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