CHICAGO – Derrick Rose could be on the practice floor as soon as Tuesday. If not then, maybe Thursday.
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said Monday evening that Rose, rehabbing his way back from ACL knee surgery, is “very close” to beginning full-contact practice. “That’ll be the next step,” the Bulls coach said before facing the Los Angeles Lakers Monday night at United Center. Did “very close” mean this week? “Yeah,” Thibodeau said. “Could. … It could.”
Because the Bulls have home games Wednesday (Detroit) and Friday (Golden State), then a one-game trip to Washington Saturday, the available practice days this week are the aforementioned Tuesday and Thursday. Pushing into next week, it’s a similar schedule, with games Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Full-contact practice – as in live 5-on-5 activity or, simply, practice — is one step up from the “predictable contact” Rose has facing in Bulls workouts to this point. It’s a step that could last for a while – there still is no indication that Rose will play in a game before the All-Star break, possibly not until late February or early March. But practicing is the penultimate step in his long trek back from his left ACL injury late in Game 1 of the playoffs and subsequent surgery in early May.
Rose, after months of solo rehab and drills, has joined the Bulls on the road in recent weeks and taken part in walk-throughs. He routinely takes to the court before games to work on his shooting, and he was out there Monday while Thibodeau spoke with reporters.
“Everyone has to be patient,” Thibodeau said. “He’s doing his part – he’s showing great patience, everybody else has to. He’s got to concentrate on the rehab. Guys have to focus on the opponent and their improvement. And then when he’s ready – whenever it is – that’s when he comes back.
“Not earlier than he’s ready. Not later. Our doctors have been on top of it since Day 1. Everyone just has to show patience.”
Rose isn’t the only Bulls player in the trainers’ room these days. Forward Luol Deng missed his second consecutive game Monday with a strained right hamstring. Second-year reserve Jimmy Butler was set to start in Deng’s spot.
Richard Hamilton and Kirk Hinrich has coped with injuries, too. Yet Chicago was 23-16 prior to facing the Lakers and considered itself well-position for the season’s second half.
“I like our team,” Thibodeau said. “I guess you [media] don’t believe me. But I believe we have more than enough. If we do the right things, we’re capable of beating anyone anywhere. We have to continue to do that. I still see a lot of room for growth. That’s the way I want us to be. We went through half the season last year without Derrick.
“And so the big thing is, you begin with the end in mind. For us, we want to be playing great basketball at the end of the season and we want to be as healthy as possible.”