Derrick Rose return looking unlikely with time running out

Rose probably won’t be back this year. (Jim Rassol/AP)

Over three months since he last played, Derrick Rose’s off-again, on-again comeback is probably off for good.

Tom Thibodeau seemed to acknowledge the unlikelihood of Rose’s return for the first time Monday, while also keeping the door slightly ajar.

“He’s been out a long time,” Thibodeau said.

Rose underwent ankle surgery on Dec. 22 to fix a bone spur, a procedure that should’ve kept him out less than two months. He returned to practice after the All-Star break, but required a second procedure after suffering an infection in the area of the surgery.

With only eight games remaining after Monday’s contest against the Bulls and the Knicks nearly eliminated from playoff contention, it makes little sense to ramp up Rose for a return. He hasn’t yet been cleared for contact, but travels with the team and, according to Thibodeau, has “ramped up his conditioning.”

“But he hasn’t taken contact yet,” Thibodeau said. “And that’s a big thing.”

Rose’s absence has been cited as a reason for the team’s downfall this season, leaving the Knicks without a natural point guard because Kemba Walker was granted permission to quit after the All-Star break.

The Knicks were only three games under .500 when Rose was first sidelined, and he was their most reliable player averaging 12 points on 44.5% shooting. But his absence also allowed Immanuel Quickley to flourish late in the season.

In the last 15 games before Monday, Quickley was averaging 15.7 points while catching fire from beyond the arc (43.1%).

It’s a major difference from earlier in the season, when Quickley was shooting just a hair over 30% on 3-pointers at the All-Star break.

Quickley, however, pushed back that he was struggling.

“Again, that’s another opinion. You might say that it started low for me. I know my shot wasn’t falling as much as I’m used to it, but I feel like I was playing good,” he said. “I was making reads. I was playing defense. But for me, I try not to be down on myself.”

With Rose out, Quickley has been called for more point guard duties. It hasn’t translated to many assists and he’s probably still better suited as the two-guard, but he’s surging to end his sophomore campaign.

Rose and Quickley are both under contract next season, but the Knicks will search for a starting point guard in the summer after Walker’s flameout. They’re targeting the Mavericks’ Jalen Brunson in free agency.

Rose will be 34 years old next season and it looks like he’ll have plenty of rest between games.