INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Derrick Rose is ready to start playing basketball in Cleveland again – once he’s healthy.
The oft-injured point guard acknowledged Friday he has a bone spur in his left ankle that contributed to his decision to leave the team Nov. 22.
In his first public comments since ending an almost two-week hiatus, Rose told reporters that he had apologized to his teammates, was content with the Cavaliers and insisted he couldn’t wait to get back on the court.
”I was just figuring things out, thinking about this and that,” Rose said before the Cavs’ morning shootaround in Indianapolis. ”But I’m here for my team. I’m here to win. And that’s one of the reasons why I came back.”
Before his departure, Rose had been slowed for weeks by an ankle injury. It was the latest chapter in what has become a frustratingly recurring story.
Since being named the league’s MVP in 2011, Rose has played in just 237 of 501 possible games including just seven of the Cavs’ first 25 this season.
Rose’s absence prompted some to speculate on his future plans and when he returned to the team earlier this week, some contended that the top overall draft pick in 2008 was only coming back to cash in on a lucrative contract.
”It’s not about that. I’ve saved up enough money,” Rose said. ”If I wanted to leave, I would have left. Like I said, coming back here, starting with rehab that’s my first step. Keeping it simple and just giving my team support and then I’ll see what I see off the court.”
The Central Division leaders and three-time defending Eastern Conference champs have won 13 in a row and can break the franchise record with a road win over the surprising Pacers (14-11) on Friday night.
Cleveland won all six games while Rose was gone.
But what exactly Rose did during his absence, or when he could be back in uniform, remains unclear.
He declined to say where he was, what he did or whether he pondered retirement. Rose even sidestepped a question about a potential target date for his return.
”I’m taking it one day at a time. That’s the only thing you can do as far as your sanity,” he said. ”You’ll go crazy if you try to overthink it or think you’re going to have a starting day and it’s not there.”
One thing that has changed: Rose’s mindset.
He thanked his Cleveland teammates and general manager Koby Altman for their support, which he said helped make the decision to come back easier. Now it’s just about getting healthy.
”I was just figuring things out, thinking about this and that,” Rose said. ”But I’m here for my team. I’m here to win. And that’s one of the reasons why I came back.”
If Rose works his way back into form, it will only make the hottest team in the NBA better.
The Cavs (18-7) already have four-time MVP LeBron James and perennial All-Star Kevin Love in the starting lineup and acquired one of the NBA’s best young point guards, Isaiah Thomas, in an offseason trade from Boston.
Cleveland still has Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, each of whom played a key role in the Cavs’ championship run two years ago.
They also added Dwayne Wade and Jae Crowder during the offseason.
Right now, though, the Cavs are banged up.
In addition to Rose’s injury, Shumpert (left knee surgery), Thomas (right hip) and Thompson (strained left calf) will sit out Friday.
But if the 29-year-old Rose gets anywhere close to his career averages (19.4 points, 5.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds) or even his season scoring average (14.3 points), he could see the minutes come back quickly.
”Am I concerned? No, no. Not at all,” Rose said when asked about his potential role. ”I’ll be able to hoop. That’s all I want to do: Hoop and win. I don’t care about all the stuff that comes with it. I’m appreciative, I’m grateful to be on this team.”
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