DEERFIELD — If there was any concern that the Bulls switching their day off from practice from Wednesday to Tuesday, in the wake of Derrick Rose’s “planned rest” from Monday’s scrimmage signified that the former league MVP had some type of knee-related issue, that was immediately extinguished following Wednesday’s session at the Berto Center, which featured two sets of scrimmages.
“It’s the same. I’m ready. I’m just ready to go out there and play. Every day I’m getting stronger. I haven’t had any setbacks, and I’m just looking forward to that day when I step back on the court,” Rose said Wednesday. “I’ve been feeling great. Other than fatigue, I don’t have any other problems.”
Nor is the point guard frustrated at the organization forcing him to sit out on occasion.
“I don’t fight it. I know it’s for my health. I know it’s going to better me as a player and really give me rest. Like today, we went really hard at it in practice and scrimmaged two times, and I felt good,” he explained. “Now I’ll go do the ice tub and just get a massage, and hopefully I will be fine for tomorrow.”
But though Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau briefly confirmed that Rose not only participated but excelled in Wednesday’s practice — “He felt real good. he attacked” — he did explain the reasoning behind switching the team’s schedule.
“If you look back, that’s what I’ve always done. It’s always been: two (practices), two (practices), one (practice), day off,” he explained. “This year I thought, ‘maybe we do something different,’ but after the end of our fifth practice, we had heavy legs. I could see it, so I thought, ‘we’ll go back to what we normally do.’ That was it.”
But Thibodeau did acknowledge that two other Bulls players, All-Star center Joakim Noah and veteran reserve guard Kirk Hinrich, did miss Wednesday’s practice, due to “overall soreness,” though he expected both to be back in action Thursday.
“At this time of the year, we’re just making sure all of the nicks are taken care of, so they both are feeling a lot better today. After a day off, we just thought another day was the smart thing to do, so that’s what we did,” said the coach, who denied Noah’s plantar fasciitis was the issue, only stating “his body” caused him to sit out. “The thing is, you don’t know. Everyone says, ‘Well, Joakim, you played big minutes.’ Well, Joakim got hurt when he played short minutes. Some of it is, that’s just the way it is. So Kirk has started, he’s come off the bench. So we’ll see how it unfolds.
“Obviously the depth up front helps. You’ve got Jimmy (Butler), you’ve got Derrick and Luol (Deng) and Mike (Dunleavy), so we feel good about that. We’ll see. Sometimes you have to look at the injuries and what type of injuries are they? Spinal tap, I don’t think that has anything to do with minutes. Someone gets kicked in the calf, I don’t think that has anything to do with minutes,” Thibodeau continued, bristling at the insinuation that heavy minutes have been and would be problematic for his players. “I expect starters to play starter’s minutes. I expect bench guys to play bench minutes. You look at the minutes in the league, they’re in line with what everyone else is doing, so we’ll see.”
After his yearlong absence, one Bull who is seemingly unconcerned about minutes, as long as he gets back on the court sooner than later, is Rose, who gives off the vibe that he can’t wait for the questions about practice performances to end and Saturday’s preseason-opener in Indianapolis to get here, fast.
"I’m a guy where whoever is on the court, I’m going to go at them. If it’s my teammates,” he said. “It could be my mom on the court. She’s going to get killed. I could care less. For me, I’m just trying to build that mentality that I don’t care who is out there, I’m going to play the same way.
“I will just go out there, play my game, play aggressive. My guys, the rest of my team, they’re already in a rhythm and putting me into the equation, I’m just trying to get my rhythm back and go out there and try to play a simple game but play aggressive,” Rose added. “If I feel like I see an opening or whatever, I will take it. That’s why in practice I try to be so aggressive to the hole, getting guys open to put them in the right position to make shots. I’ve been doing a lot in practice. I’m getting to the foul (line), making my shots and just trying to run a team and control the game.”
Thibodeau insisted that in the upcoming game against the Central Division rival Pacers, his focus would be on the squad as a whole and not just Rose’s play in his first game since April 2012.
“Well, it’s not only Derrick. It’s the entire team. We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things. It’ll be his first game back, but we’re going to look at how that unit performs together. It’s the preseason. We want to look at some guys to see what they can do, and it’s a good way to evaluate,” said Thibodeau, who confirmed that the Bulls now have 16 players on their training-camp roster after free-agent guards Patrick Christopher and Kalin Lucas were released Wednesday. “We’re establishing a baseline. We’re going to be looking at a lot of different lineups. We just want to see where we are offensively and defensively. But we’re just trying to build the right habits each and every day.”
For Rose's part, he says one noticeable improvement in his game will be his balance, a product of his added strength and embracing stretching techniques.
"(Before the injury), it was just me being talented and the way that I played," he explained. "I wasn’t on balance like I am now. I’m able to get in front of player, stop and go, my hesitation is a little bit better and just my I.Q. of the game, I think it grew, where going to the hole, getting beat up all the time, I’m pulling up for jump shots and just making the game as easy as possible for me."
No matter what new aspects of his game fans see, just having him back on the court will be a welcome sight, and as the days go on, there's finally a light at the end of the tunnel.