The definition of "more contact" for Derrick Rose, as Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau described the "next step" in the former league MVP's ongoing recovery process is controlled games of two-on-two, CSNChicago.com has learned.
Thibodeau acknowledged after Tuesday's practice at the Berto Center that Rose was engaged in contact drills with his teammates, but as is typical for the tight-lipped coach, he wouldn't divulge further details.
CSNChicago.com talked to multiple people who witnessed Rose's participation Tuesday -- in fact, several members of the organization, from his teammates to Bulls management, observed the proceedings -- and they spoke favorably about the All-Star point guard's progress, though all were only cautiously optimistic and none were willing to speak to a timetable for his eventual return to the court this season.
"He's looking good. He's getting back to where he needs to be. He's just working. He'll be all right," one observer told CSNChicago.com. "He's getting there into game shape. He's working on it, just taking his time. He's going to be ready, whenever he's ready to come back.
"That's whether Rose showed flashes of his old form just going to have to wait. He's getting right. I can't really say too much on that," he continued. "He's a basketball player. He's going to compete. Anybody steps on the floor against him, they'd better be ready. He's going to compete."
According to a separate source with knowledge of the situation, the game was a closely-supervised matchup between Rose and reserve big man Taj Gibson against rookie point guard Marquis Teague and backup center Nazr Mohammed.
Not that the Bulls or other NBA teams don't engage in one-on-one or two-on-two games during practices for either enjoyment or development, but this was unique, as Thibodeau made the affair very situational, putting Rose in various pick-and-roll and pin-down scenarios, while stopping play periodically for instructional purposes.
Previously, Rose had only performed one-on-one drills with team staffers -- as was previously reported by the Chicago Sun-Times -- as the two were on the United Center court before recent Bulls games prior to the arrival of fans to the arena, but after many members of the media were present, similar to when the Chicago native did shooting drills with a small audience watching.
Tuesday was truly a next step, as Rose played with an intensity -- he got frustrated when he missed shots and attempted to play tough defense, even blocking a shot -- that showed after his long layoff, his competitive juices were flowing.
"He looked great. Remember how he used to cut through the lane? The way he used to cut through the lane and do the acrobatics," described another person who witnessed Rose's first time playing with teammates since last April 28, albeit in an informal, two-on-two practice setting. "It just looked so smooth. But he's just taking his time. I think he's got to come back when he's ready, but it's still progressing."
"Just looking at his body, it's crazy. Compared to where he used to be, his body, he's just been working real hard and you can tell how his jumping ability is, that burst. Even though he's a minute away, that burst, that back cut, it looks so familiar, but even faster," the individual told CSNChicago.com. "It was real competitive, but at the same time, he's still a while away. But he just needs to get his timing back. But he looks great."
Another source cautioned CSNChicago.com that Rose appeared winded afterward and certainly looked rusty, despite displaying flashes of his unique ability on occasion.
The same person speculated that depending on the team's schedule -- it should be noted that the Bulls don't practice Thursday, have a home game Friday night against Golden State, after which they'll travel to Washington for a game Saturday against the Wizards before returning to Chicago, likely having an off day Sunday due to the back-to-back and hosting Charlotte next Monday -- Rose could remain in this phase until at least next week before potentially moving on to five-on-five action with teammates, though the team rarely scrimmages during the season.