Outlook on return is Rose-y

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

No pun intended, but you got to hand it to Jalen Rose. Simply put, the guy is a warrior and is willing to do whatever it takes to help get the Raptors into the playoffs.

When reporters were allowed inside the team's practice facility yesterday, Rose was dribbling, coming off screens, knocking down shots and working up a sweat as if he were getting ready for a game. He was also wincing in pain.

HAS NOT BEEN CLEARED

Rose, who broke his left hand exactly one month ago yesterday in a win over the Golden State Warriors, hasn't been cleared -- at least medically -- to play, but in his mind he is ready to get back on the court.

When he broke his left hand -- Rose is left-handed -- the veteran guard remained in the game and persevered through the discomfort on the road against Golden State.

The prognosis was Rose would be back between four and six weeks but he says he is ahead of schedule.

With the Raptors playing the Pacers in Indiana tonight, it would be a miracle for Rose to dress against his former team but he is physically and mentally preparing to return.

"I'll be back soon,'' Rose said of an injured hand that will require some form of a protective gear when he is officially cleared to play.

"If this (tonight's tip) was Game 7, I'd play,'' Rose said. "Ten years from now, I'll tell my daughter that I can't hold on to you because I messed up my hand in Game 7."

As important as each game looms for the Raptors, tonight's game is no more important than tomorrow's visit by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But just the sight of Rose being able to practise at full speed, and be encouraged by the progress, has made the mood around the team a lot more upbeat.

Rose knows that no matter how much he practises and gets off as many shots as he wants, until he gets to play in a game and gets hit on the hand, then he'll know exactly where he stands with his injury.

"It all looks good, it all feels good but until you get whacked, that'll be the true test,'' Rose said.

Rose can't shoot from beyond the three-point arc and says he can re-injure the hand if he comes back but he's willing to take that risk. The alternative is watching helplessly from the bench and not being any kind of a presence on a team that is desperate for post-season action.

"I'm ready for him to go and the sooner the better,'' newest Raptor Rod Strickland said. "With Jalen and Alvin, we're all looking forward to having them both back because they give us so much flexibility."

PLAYOFF FATE

While Alvin Williams is still weeks away after recently undergoing knee surgery, Rose should be back during Toronto's coming four-game homestand, a 10-day period that will, in all probability, determine Toronto's playoff fate.

The Raptors then on the road for a gruelling four-game set.


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