Derrick Rose was joking when he said, "I wish Kurt Thomas was younger" Thursday, but similar to how he feels about shooting guard Keith Bogans, he won't be all smiles if the league's oldest player isn't back in a Bulls uniform.

When Joakim Noah was sidelined, Thomas stepped in admirably, allowing young reserves Taj Gibson and Omer Asik to develop into a formidable big-man duo off the bench. Thomas played tough (if not frequently airborne) interior defense, subtly setting hard, effective screens and even occasionally contributing on offense with his accurate mid-range jumper.

Thomas was seen as a veteran locker-room presence and insurance for the team's inside depth, but in addition to being one of the most popular players among his teammates and filling in ably for Noah, he's also one of coach Tom Thibodeau's favorites, going back with the coach to their days together in New York.

Whether Thomas is re-signed or not will probably come down to money, but if he isn't back in Chicago -- privately his preference, as he enjoyed his time in the Windy City and believes the Bulls are close to winning a title -- don't be shocked if he makes a return to the Big Apple, as the Knicks reportedly covet him as a backup to injury-prone All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire.

So, as much as Rose wishes he could have played with the younger version of Thomas -- one of the few players in the NBA to experience the last lockout -- he'll settle for one more campaign with the current model.