Derrick Rose's acknowledgment that he could miss the entire season has impact that will last through the All-Star break. Though not a total surprise to Bulls management, which always has said Rose will return whenever he's ready, general manager Gar Forman did say in a Jan. 7 interview "we're optimistic that he'll be back at some point this season." Rose, of course, still could be. But he also made it abundantly clear he might not. And when the Bulls gather Monday for a Berto Center practice in advance of Tuesday's game in New Orleans, that sobering fact will underscore coach Tom Thibodeau's declaration from late Wednesday after a loss in Boston. "Our road isn't going to get any easier," Thibodeau said. "It's going to get a lot tougher. Our mindset has to be we have to come with a greater fight to scratch out wins. We're shorthanded. We've been down multiple starters for the entire season. If we exhale, relax, we're in trouble." The Bulls limped into the break 4-6 in their last 10 games. They have endured injuries to all five starters, with Kirk Hinrich possibly returning from his infected right elbow against the Hornets on Tuesday. They rank third in points allowed and opponents' field-goal percentage and sixth in rebounding, consistent staples of Thibodeau-coached teams' success. But they haven't fared well in either area lately. Without Rose they are languishing offensively, ranking 27th in points scored and 24th in field-goal percentage. The surprise might be that the Bulls are fifth in a downtrodden Eastern Conference, eight games above .500. "We're not playing very well right now," said Joakim Noah, who will be in Houston for Sunday's All-Star Game after undergoing more treatment on the plantar fasciitis in his right foot Thursday morning. Perhaps the most telling comments from Rose were that his "leg still isn't feeling right" and that his "game is always going to be driving." The latter might suggest Rose won't return as a limited minutes facilitator, lending even more credence to the possibility he sits the season and takes another offseason to come back as his previous explosive, dynamic offensive force. In the news conference after Rose's surgery to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament in May, team physician Brian Cole, who performed the surgery, emphasized regaining that dynamic likely would stretch past the eight- to 12-month timeline the organization placed on Rose's return.