Defining Rose's 'next step' in recovery process

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Defining Rose's 'next step' in recovery process

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.

Bobby Portis relishing his chance as starter

Bobby Portis relishing his chance as starter

A milk carton was a more likely place to find Bobby Portis than on a basketball floor playing big minutes for the majority of his second season.

He could often be found in the locker room before games and listening to the older players talk to the media afterward, trying his best to fight off the frustration and admitted confusion that comes with the regression of not getting playing time.

When Portis did play, he looked nothing like the confident and borderline cocky rookie who often referred to himself in the third person in interviews. He didn't know when he would play, how long he would be out there or even worse, what was expected of him.

The trade of Taj Gibson at the deadline — preceded by the temporary benching of Nikola Mirotic — put Portis back in the spotlight and he's intent on making the most of it during the last 23 games of the regular season.

"It's fun. You know go out there every day just to know that it's another day I'm going to play," Portis said. "That's the biggest thing for me. I feel like that's already a confidence builder right there, just coming into every game knowing that I'm in the rotation. It's great fun to go out there and play."

It's no secret the front office the Bulls want Portis to succeed and not add him to the ledger of some of the first-round disappointments that can be recalled in recent memory.

The trade of Gibson was certainly underlined with the mantra that Portis should play and the way was going to be cleared for Portis, one way or another. Scoring 19 with eight rebounds against the Celtics on national TV right before the All-Star break probably gave Portis enough validation considering he was thrust into the starting lineup at power forward soon after.

"I don't care about nobody judging me," Portis said. "At the end of the day I'm going to play basketball. That's my job. I'm going to go out there and do the things I do well. I feel like sometimes people misconstrue just because you don't play and they can say some things like that. I don't really care about anybody judging me at this point. At the end of the day I'm still going to be Bobby Portis at the end of the day."

Well, clearly, the third person thing hasn't left the second-year forward, but he said he stayed in the gym waiting on his opportunity, even through a quick but confusing stint to Hoffman Estates to the D-League.

"Just being hungry. Humble and hungry," Portis said. "You know one thing I always strive off of is being humble and hungry. That kept me sane. My mom, I talked to her a lot. She kept me grounded. It's kind of tough not playing and going through the season knowing that some games you might play, you might not play. You know it's about waiting your turn, but at the same time you have to keep working."

Being the fifth big in Fred Hoiberg's rotation didn't leave him a lot of room for Portis to get much run or even find a rhythm, and like many others who've found themselves out of the rotation unexpectedly, it was without much of an explanation.

"Nah, I didn't really know what I could do to get minutes," Portis said. "The one thing that I know that I always do is just come in here every day, work as hard as I can, let the dominos fall how they fall. Every day I come in here, just bust my butt for some minutes, but sometimes it wouldn't work."

Now that he has found himself into Hoiberg's good graces, his improving range has allowed both units to play similiarly.

"I think Bobby has done a real nice job," Hoiberg said. "He was a huge part of our win against Boston in our game right before the break. He just goes out and plays with so much energy. What I really like about him right now is he has no hesitation on his shot. He's stepping into his 3 with good rhythm."

Bulls Road Ahead: Keeping the momentum rolling

Bulls Road Ahead: Keeping the momentum rolling

The Bulls are currently playing their best basketball of the year, winning four straight, including three against Eastern Conference contenders.

How will Fred Hoiberg's group continue this pace during a daunting March schedule? Insider Vincent Goodwill and Mark Schanowski break it down from the Advocate Center in this edition of the Bulls Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda dealers.

Check it all out in the video above.