Derrick Rose still has not ruled out a return this season for the Chicago Bulls, saying he could play in their Eastern Conference semifinal against the Miami Heat.
The 2011 NBA MVP will not play for Chicago in Game 1 against Miami on Monday night, nor will forward Luol Deng or guard Kirk Hinrich. Deng returned to a hospital for more tests, the Bulls said, and underwent a spinal tap to rule out viral meningitis after becoming ill last week. Hinrich will miss his fourth straight game with a calf injury.
Rose has not played in more than a year while recovering from reconstructive knee surgery. He was hurt in last season's playoffs.
"Still in the air," Rose said Monday before the Bulls went through a game-day practice in Miami. "I might have a chance."
So might Hinrich and Deng, both of whom are listed as day-to-day by the Bulls. Hinrich is trying to work through the calf problem, and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Deng should be flying to Miami on Tuesday.
"He's feeling a little better," Thibodeau said.
Without Hinrich, the Bulls lose one of their best defenders against Dwyane Wade — who has been bothered for several weeks by bone bruises around his right knee. Hinrich has been rehabbing and trying to return to the lineup.
"It's slow, steady progress," Thibodeau said. "But he's still not there."
Thibodeau said Deng was no longer in the hospital when the two spoke Monday morning.
"Lu's been a very important part of the team, sort of the glue of our team," Thibodeau said. "That being said, he's missed games during the season. He missed games in the last series. We have more than enough to get it done and that's what we have to do."
Miami's main injury concern heading into the series is the status of Wade, who was in the Heat starting lineup along the rest of the regulars — LeBron James, Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers.
"Thinking I'm ready to go," Wade said.
The Bulls had a starting lineup of Jimmy Butler, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson.
The will-Rose-play-again-this-season question has loomed over the Bulls for several weeks, and the point guard himself said Monday he was "feeling pretty good."
He works out before most games, doing shooting and other drills, and was in practice garb when his teammates went through final preparations for Game 1 on the floor of Miami's arena on Monday.
"My spirits are up," Rose said. "Just happy to be here. My family is here. My teammates are here. Just everybody that we need."
Rose said Deng's absence does not have him feeling pressure to rejoin the lineup.
"I haven't had any pressure from anyone — not in the organization, not from my teammates," Rose said. "They know I'm putting everything I have into trying to come back as fast as possible. But just trying to be smart with the whole situation and just take my time."
Thibodeau was far from committal when asked if Rose could play against Miami.
"We'll see," he said.