DEERFIELD – Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls hoped all questions surrounding his recovery would be answered by now. Instead, they're still hanging there as they head into the offseason.
Rose's status remains the big issue after his long-awaited comeback got cut short by another season-ending knee injury as the Bulls turned their attention toward next year.
They managed to win 48 games despite losing their superstar and trading away Luol Deng, only to bow to the Washington Wizards in five games in the first round of the playoffs.
They were eliminated Tuesday night. On Wednesday, their focus turned toward the future, one they hope includes a healthy, dominant Rose and maybe another star player.
"You don't know what direction it could go," general manager Gar Forman said. "First of all, we could have (salary-cap) flexibility. That's dependent on some different ways that we could go. At this point, it's not definite that we would have a large amount of flexibility. But that's one of the roads we can take. There are so many moving parts that can happen. It'll obviously be an active summer for us."
Speculation has centered on the Bulls using the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer and making a run at the New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony.
No doubt, he could spark an offense that ranked dead last in both scoring and shooting. But with the Bulls, everything still starts with Rose.
The comeback story has been running on what seems like an endless loop ever since he crumbled to the court with a torn anterior-cruciate ligament with his left knee against Philadelphia in the opener of the 2012 playoffs. The Bulls thought he would come back at some point last season, except that didn't happen.
He finally returned this season, only to have his comeback cut short in his 10th game because of a torn meniscus in his right knee. So the story continues.
The same questions remain unanswered, with both Rose and the Bulls insisting he can dominate again.
"He's had two unfortunate injuries," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I think he's put a lot of work into his body, and so we're optimistic that he's going to make a complete and full recovery."
Rose, who was not available for comment Tuesday, recently started taking contact, and the next few months figure to be busy for him.
Thibodeau said he will work out more in Chicago than in Los Angeles. He also indicated Rose will practice with the team during summer league workouts but not play.
The Bulls also hope Rose plays for Team USA this summer.
"He'll continue to ramp it up, and if everything goes according to plan, which up to this point it has, we're optimistic that he'll play with Team USA this summer and have another good summer of work and be ready to go in October," Forman said.
There are other concerns beyond Rose.
The Bulls got a scare when Taj Gibson had to be helped off the court with a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter on Tuesday. Thibodeau said Joakim Noah will have an MRI on his left knee, which was drained at some point during the season and then flared up again. He was not sure about the extent of the injury.
Then, there are the roster issues.
Forman wouldn't say if Boozer has played his final game for Chicago, although he did acknowledge the amnesty option.
"That's something that as we go into July we'll have to evaluate," he said. "If it's something that makes sense as far as getting our team stronger, we may go that way. But we also may not go that way."
Boozer drove away from the Bulls' practice facility in a white Rolls Royce without talking to reporters.
Guards D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich both have expiring contracts and indicated they would like to stick around. Augustin, who signed with Chicago in December, said he could see himself playing alongside Rose next season.
Forman called him "a fit."
And Augustin said, "I definitely want to be here."
Another question is whether forward Nikola Mirotic will be here next season. The 2011 draft pick remains under contract to Real Madrid.
"We feel confident that he's going to come at some point," Forman said. "Whether it's this summer or the following summer or somewhere into the future, we still don't know. We haven't gotten to a point where there's any type of negotiation yet, though we have built a relationship when we've been over there and seen him. We're not sure when he'll come."