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Derrick Rose: Star's Imminent Return Doesn't Make Bulls Favorite in East

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 12: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls drives against Ronny Turiaf #21 of the Miami Heat at the United Center on April 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Heat 96-86 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Jonathan IrwinContributor IIJanuary 10, 2013

A wave of excitement is sweeping Chicago with news that star Derrick Rose could be nearing a return to practice (per Yahoo! Sports' Eric Freeman). And while that's good, it doesn't make the Bulls undisputed favorites in the East.

Rose has been out the entire start of the season rehabilitating a torn ACL. He suffered the injury in Chicago's playoff matchup with Philadelphia last season and had surgery not long after.

Chicago's plan this season has been simple: hold the ship together until Rose returns.

And now it looks like that imminent return could be around the corner. Once the point guard returns to full practice, it should only be a couple of weeks until he's back on NBA hardwood.

Rose will be an instant upgrade. He's averaged 21 points a game in his career and it's obvious that Chicago—10th in the East with just 93.4 points per game—is missing that offensive production.

But while all this news is certainly exciting, Chicago still has a long ways to go to return to championship contention.

At 19-14, the Bulls are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference and second in the Central Division. Admirably, Chicago is only four games back in the Eastern standings.

However, it's still premature to even be talking about Rose's return. While the news is certainly exciting, any setback in his rehab could cause extra weeks off the court.

Then there's the question of his return.

An ACL is no laughing matter, especially for a player who relies on body control like Rose does. While the 24-year-old is still young, it's foolish to think he'll return to 100 percent form this season.

After taking all this into consideration, there's still the fact that Chicago has some hefty teams to climb over.

Just a game back in the Central, the Bulls could easily capture the division with Rose's return. But the East is a completely different beast.

The Bulls still have to surge past New York and Miami. They will play the Knicks twice more this season and the Heat three times.

While Chicago is a perfect 2-0 this season against those teams so far, continuing to win out against them would only claw Chicago within a game of first place.

And that's if Chicago doesn't lose any of its final games against Miami or New York—which is a tall order.

The bottom line in all this is that the Bulls can't get ahead of themselves.

D-Rose returning to the court is exciting news, but it's something they have to be patient with. Rushing his return could cause more harm than good, and it won't automatically win the Bulls the East.

Reasonable expectations are to get to the playoffs, period. It doesn't matter if Chicago is the first seed or the eighth seed.

And from there, the team can unleash the beast and let Rose lead the way to victory.

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