Posted: Thursday August 23, 2012 12:45PM ; Updated: Thursday August 23, 2012 1:23PM
Sam Amick
Sam Amick>INSIDE THE NBA

Checking in on Rose, Howard and other NBA players on the mend

Story Highlights

Several teams' seasons could be determined by the health of their respective stars

In Chicago, there is hope Derrick Rose can come back stronger than ever before

Lakers are ecstatic about Dwight Howard but no one is quite sure when he'll return

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Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the Bulls' first playoff game last year.
Ron Cortes/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT/ZUMAPRESS.com

For most NBA players, these are the quietest and most stress-free days on the calendar.

Some are squeezing in that one last vacation, while others are putting on their own personal training camp in a location of their choice (sunshine preferable) without the burden of their respective coaches looming over them. But for the unfortunate few who suffered injuries either last season or during the summer, the rehabilitation work that may very well determine the fate of their team's season is in full swing at the moment.

This is more than the typical lot, too, as some of the league's most relevant teams have their hopes hinging on the health of their respective stars (see Bulls, Lakers, Clippers) while the up-and-comer types (Golden State, Minnesota) are just a few setbacks away from returning to also-ran status. Their situations are, well, iffy. Here's a quick look at where those players and teams stand.

Bulls

As inspiring as Adidas' recent Derrick Rose-on-the-recovery commercial was, the fact remains that he's a long way from being back in action. Chicago Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said recently that Rose -- who he vows not to push in the recovery process -- could be back in January or perhaps even miss the entire season following an ACL tear in his left knee in the first game of the playoffs against Philadelphia. According to CSNChicago.com (which had a must-see interview with the former MVP) the Bulls plan to keep Rose's rehab going at least through the February All-Star break.

A source with knowledge of Rose's recovery said he's "coming along great" in what has been a five-days-per-week routine in Los Angeles. His upper body is stronger than ever before while he's slowly strengthening his lower body as well. Rose, the source said, is expected to take part in some light on-court activity soon for the first time since his May 12 surgery.

The silver lining here is that Rose is doing the sort of strength work and resistance training that he may never have done if he hadn't been hurt like this. The hope is that he comes back even stronger and with the area around his left knee reinforced in such a way that it helps prevent a reoccurrence.

Yet considering the dropoff in point guard talent that Bulls fans will have to endure while Rose is gone (the recently returned Kirk Hinrich, free-agent signee Nate Robinson and rookie draft pick Marquis Teague from Kentucky are the only replacements), it'd help their cause if Luol Deng and Joakim Noah are able to play at full strength.

Noah, the always underrated and overlooked center who missed the final three games of the first-round loss to the 76ers after spraining his left ankle in Game 2, is expected to be fully healthy by the time training camp arrives. The injury was bad enough that Noah decided not to play for his French national team in the Olympics, and a source close to him said he has yet to play in any five-on-five action. The focus has been on weightlifting, individual workouts on the court and steady rehabbing of the ankle, but SI.com has been assured he'll be 100 percent by early October.

Meanwhile, Deng -- the 27-year-old small forward who was an All-Star for the first time last season -- may not have surgery to repair the torn ligament in his left wrist (suffered on Jan. 21) after all. Deng, who put off the procedure to play for Great Britain in the Olympics, was quoted in the Aug. 6 edition of the Chicago Tribune saying he may avoid the doctor's office altogether.

"Did I look like I needed [surgery]?" Deng said after Britain downed China 90-58 in his team's Olympic finale. "I'm fine right now. I feel great. There are a lot of things I want to improve in my game that I want to focus on now. I want to be a better player than I was last year.

"I have time to make decisions and be healthy by the time we start [training camp]."

Lakers

Dwight Howard tried his best to lighten the mood at his introductory press conference in Los Angeles, doing impressions of everyone from Kobe Bryant to random fans who had greeted him on the street. But there's nothing funny about his back situation if you're a member of the Lakers faithful.

Howard may miss the start of the regular season, and the question even after he returns is whether a 6-foot-11, 264-pound, 26-year-old who relies so heavily on his athleticism will be the same specimen after having a herniated disk repaired and fragments removed on April 21. Chances are that Howard will be just fine, but this whole dream season could be swapped for a reality check if he's not the same player.

"I'm getting a lot better, a lot stronger every day," said Howard, who was sent from Orlando to the Lakers in a four-team deal on Aug. 11. "I'm looking forward to the doctor saying you're free to play. I can't wait for that day."

That day didn't come during the playoffs, when the Magic fell to Indiana in the first round. It didn't come in the Olympics, either, as Howard watched from a distance as Team USA defended its gold without him. And considering the Lakers are assured only one season with the 2013 free-agent-to-be, an extended delay in his return to Laker Land is sure to cause all sorts of angst.

 
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