Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich has spoken of his excitement at the impending return of superstar Derrick Rose.
24-year-old Rose, who was the NBA's most valuable player in 2011, is set to make his comeback during preseason following a severe knee injury that sidelined him for the entire 2012-13 campaign.
And despite the Bulls managing to cope reasonably well without their star performer last season, Hinrich admits Rose's welcome return will provide a huge boost for the franchise as they attempt to challenge the reigning champions, the Miami Heat, for supremacy at the summit of the Eastern Conference.
"I'm very excited," he told the Chicago Tribune. "We have most of our guys back. We had some great additions. The anticipation of Derrick coming back healthy and it sounds like he's motivated. We think we have a very good chance."
Rose sustained the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the Bulls' first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers in May 2012.
Following successful surgery, Rose was able to return to practice in January but didn't feel ready to return early and aid the Bulls' playoff campaign.
But with that agonising injury layoff soon to become a thing of the past, Hinrich believes Rose is now relishing the chance to get back out on the court.
"I saw him a few times, but not for a while. He's travelling around and getting ready himself. You can just tell he feels excited to have the opportunity to get back out there and just play basketball. That's what he loves to do and we're excited to have him back," he concluded.
The Bulls will open the 2013-14 season with a trip to face LeBron James and the Heat on October 29.
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