As expected, Tom Thibodeau played his cards close to the vest, but even the poker-faced Bulls head coach couldnt hide the fact that Derrick Roses sore back is gradually improving. The reigning league MVP participated in Sundays team practice at the Berto Center and took on contact, a significant step in his eventual return to the court after missing five consecutive games with lower back spasms.
He did more today. Coming along, so well see how he is tomorrow, the coach revealed. He took on contact today, so I want to see how he is, how he feels, after the contact."
Thibodeau noted that Rose would warm up prior to Monday afternoon's game against the Hawks (as he did before Saturday's loss to the Nets), however, he wouldnt budge when prodded about when Rose would return or if the Eastern Conference All-Star starter will play before the annual exhibition, held Feb. 26 in Orlando.
When hes ready to play, hes ready to play, whether its tomorrow or later. Im not going to base it on anything other than him being ready to play. Not our opponent, not the All-Star Game, not anything but if hes cleared medically and hes ready to play. Then hell play, said Thibodeau, the East teams coach. Each day hes done more. Hes responded well. He hasnt had any problems, so today was more physical. Defended pick-and-rolls, went one-on-one, defended in the post, played in the post, defended catch-and-shoot. So he did a lot today and well see how he is tomorrow and were going to go from there, but its the next step for us.
Thibodeau did admit that when Rose does return, he could be a bit cautious with the superstar point guards playing time, simply due to conditioning reasons.
His conditioning will probably be affected a little bit and his timing, but hell get that back quickly, said Thibodeau, who noted that Rose did some half-court running. Well see what he can handle.