By Jean-Paul Salamanca ( | First Posted: Mar 04, 2013 06:06 PM EST

Derrick Rose joined the Chicago Bulls on the bench--as a spectator--for the first time this season on Sunday in a 97-92 Bulls loss to Indiana. Rose continues to rehab his torn left ACL from last April that has kept him out of action all season. (Photo : Reuters)

Was the sight of Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose on the bench with the Bulls this week just another teaser? Or was it a sign that Rose is closer to coming back than the team is letting on?

Despite a disheartening 97-92 loss Sunday to Central Division rival the Indiana Pacers, a glimmer of hope appeared for Bulls fans on the bench as Rose was seen on the sidelines, wearing a light blue blazer, grey slacks and white shirt as he appeared on the Bulls bench for the first time all season.

Rose has been largely keeping out of the public eye and rehabilitating quietly since he had surgery to repair the ACL tear in his left knee that he sustained going up for an ill-fated jump shot last year on April 28 during the final minutes in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs against Philadelphia.

Was having Rose around a distraction? Not by a long shot, according to his teammates.

"It was great," Joakim Noah said, according to ESPN. "It was great. I know that it's tough for him to be on the bench because he wants to play, but it feels good to have him out there. It's really good to have him on the bench and being a part of it."

Bulls small forward was also glad to see No.1 around with the team. "It was great because he sees things that a lot of guys don't see -- being a point guard and being there watching the game." Butler said. "It definitely helps to have him in your ear, have him on your side and pushing because he's still giving his energy and his say-so from the sideline."

Rose, who has been cleared to participate in five-on-five scrimmages, has been traveling with the team since Jan. 1. However, he has gone on record in February that he would not return to the court until he felt he was "110 percent" ready to play to the level that made him the NBA MVP in 2010-11.

According to Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, Rose has largely been traveling with the team in order to continue to rehab, but Rose's visit on the bench wasn't anything that people should be reading into too much.

"There's stuff that he's doing back there and now he's not doing that as much, he's doing more before the game, so that part's taken care of. It's just the next step; he may not even be out there all the time," Thibodeau said of Rose. "If he wants to come out, great. If he doesn't, that's fine, too. Again, his focus has to be on the rehab. The team has to focus on our improvement and our next game. So at some point he'll be ready to go."

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