NEW ORLEANS — Derrick Rose hasn’t done anything out of the ordinary when it comes to his rehabilitation from surgery to repair his torn right medial meniscus, the season-ending knee injury he suffered in November.
Still, just like last season, there will be periodic updates about the point guard’s recovery process and much speculation about whether his timetable to return to the court is sooner than expected, especially after he was selected to participate in July’s USA Basketball training camp ahead of summer international competition. Rose is now a bit more visible as he travels with the Bulls on road trips and has can be seen launching jumpers.
“He can shoot. He’s doing some jogging on the treadmill. He’s coming along. Still got to be patient, still step by step. Nothing close to practicing,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau explained. “I don’t want to jump to any conclusions. We’re going step by step. When he handles the next phase, then we’ll move him on to the next one and just make sure he’s completely healthy. That’s all we’re thinking about.”
[MORE: Thibodeau addresses thin roster]
Williams praises fellow USA assistant Thibodeau
Pelicans head coach Monty Williams got to know Thibodeau last summer, when both were in their initial stints as assistant coaches for the national team at USA Basketball’s Select Team mini-camp. The two NBA head coaches quickly developed a mutual respect and through their conversations, Williams came to know enough about Thibodeau that he isn’t surprised by the Bulls’ ability to stay afloat and remain competitive in the wake of losing Rose and last month’s trade of Luol Deng, not to mention a litany of injuries.
“No, I’m not,” Williams said. “They’ve done it every year. You lose Derrick, obviously an MVP, that’s a big blow. But there’s still a couple of All-Stars left on that team that can carry you. You’ve got one of the best coaches in the league. Concepts and the way they go about their business, it doesn’t surprise me where they are.”
Williams believes the Bulls can still be a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference in the second half of the season, a notion that has some credence when one considers that the team could challenge to host a first-round playoff series.
“I would imagine so, just based on what they’ve been able to do and their experience,” explained Williams, whose own team has also been bitten by the injury bug this season. “Thibs demands a lot of his guys and that atmosphere creates winning, I think. So I just think that he does things the right way. I enjoyed my time with him last summer, listening to him talk about different concepts. Surprising to hear him ask me questions about the way we do things and we were bouncing a lot of stuff off of each other. Just talking to him, I understood right away why he has so much success as a coach, because of that atmosphere and what he demands of his players.”
[MORE: Noah, Thibodeau put All-Star selection in perspective]
“[Thibodeau] has players from different programs. He’s watched them. He’s brought some of the same concepts to help those guys be as successful as they can. Some of the Utah sets for Boozer, I see some pin-down sets for Dunleavy,” he went on to say. “So he’s smart enough to know he doesn’t want to out-trick himself and come up with something. Just go with what works.”
Thibodeau high on Chicago native Davis
Only in his second NBA season, 2012 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis is already at the 20 point-per-game and 10 rebound-per-game, along with leading the league in blocked shots. Somehow, the Pelicans big man, a product of Chicago’s South Side, wasn’t selected as a Western Conference All-Star reserve, but Thibodeau believes that honor won’t be missing from Davis’ resume for long.
“They’re not many 20-and-10 guys in the league. He was around with USA Basketball this summer and you could see the big jump that he had made in his game. He’s playing with a lot of confidence, has great impact on the game in a lot of different ways. Shooting the ball a lot better, running the floor great, defense, all-around player, skilled, great kid. He’s an All-Star. He just didn’t happen to make the All-Star team. He’s an All-Star player, though,” the coach explained. “Sometimes it’s the way it works in this league for whatever reason and it’s hard because there are guys that are deserving that get left off, because there’s a limited amount of space. For example, three years ago, I thought Luol should have been an All-Star and he didn’t make it, and then he got it the next year and so, usually that’s the case, particularly with a younger guy. Even though he didn’t make it — and he still may make it. They may name him, he’s certainly deserving. But he will be in the future, for sure, and there’s always going to be somebody left off and that’s the unfortunate part. It’s too bad there’s not more. It’s impossible because once you get there, it’s impossible to get minutes for all the players who are there. But Anthony’s, he’s not only a great player, he’s a great person. He’s got a very bright future.”
Thibodeau was implying that Davis could be selected by the league as an injury replacement in the event that currently sidelined Lakers star Kobe Bryant follows through on his intention of not playing. Davis would be a natural choice, given that New Orleans is the host city for next month’s All-Star Game.
Count Taj Gibson as another observer impressed with Davis’ development.
“I’ve had a chance to have a close look at him from USA [Basketball] and I just think that his confidence over the years has been building and building, the sixth man explained. “Then, in USA, you see a jump shot, a lot of different things that he’s been doing better, as far as facing up, attacking the basket and it’s a sight to see.”
Gibson also gave a brief scouting report on Davis, who suited up against his hometown team Saturday after missing the Pelicans’ last contest with a dislocated finger.
“Just try to force him to shoot shots, contest them, try to get him out of rhythm, try to limit his drives to the basket because he’s really athletically, catches a lot of lobs and confidence,” said Gibson, who also quipped, “He always tends to get hurt right before he plays his hometown team,” a reference to Davis missing both of New Orleans’ regular-season matchups in Chicago thus far in his young career. “One thing about young players, when they get confidence early, it’s hard to shut them off, so it’s up to whoever’s guarding him—myself or Joakim, whoever—just to try to take the advantage away of confidence and try to make the game harder on him.”
Like his coach, Gibson also believes Davis was snubbed from being an All-Star.
“I think so. There were a lot of All-Star snubs, I think. But it’s how the NBA is,” he said. “I think he’s definitely one of them.”
When it comes to other players he felt were deserving, yet weren’t selected, the first name was a member of a rival, Indiana, but a fellow Brooklyn, N.Y., native.
“Lance Stephenson. I think Lance has proven his game a whole bunch. I think he’s one of the most improved players of the year. The guy leads the [NBA] in triple-doubles. It’s really hard in this league to get a double-double, let alone a couple triple-doubles,” Gibson said. “But that’s how the league goes. But I’m extremely happy for some of the guys, like DeMar DeRozan, a lot of the guys that put in the work that made it.”