DEERFIELD, ILL.— Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and injured superstar Derrick Rose were engrossed in deep conversation when the assembled media was let into the team’s practice Wednesday afternoon at the Berto Center.
The rest of the team was either leaving the court or had already disappeared, leaving reporters to wait for the pair to cease talking before Thibodeau spoke.
“No, just talking about basketball,” the coach said, when asked about what they discussed, as Rose launched 3-pointers, occasionally distracting even Thibodeau with his long-range accuracy. “We talk every day.”
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Rose is a full participant in team practices these days and has even displayed that he’s crossed his self-imposed hurdle of dunking “in stride” before games, with both the media and fans witnessing in person—and video of the feat going viral—so with the Bulls’ struggles, it’s only natural that a desire to see the hometown hero back on the court has become more overt from all corners.
But according to Thibodeau, the old party line of “nothing’s changed” remains the truth regarding the Chicago native’s recovery from a torn ACL.
While some observers suspect that Rose’s teammates are waiting for the former league MVP to come back and rescue the team from its current malaise, the point guard’s ongoing rehabilitation efforts continue to be separate from what’s currently happening with the Bulls, regardless of how they’re faring in the standings.
“He’s doing everything. He’s just got to keep making the progress that he’s making. He’s doing fine,” he said. “He sees how it’s improving and as I’ve said all along, we all have to understand that the intensity of an NBA game is totally different than practice, so he’s preparing himself for that and he’ll know when he’s ready. We’ll know when he’s ready, so we’ve just got to be patient.
“There’s physical, there’s mental, there’s both. He’s handled himself great and as I said, we’ll know when he’s ready. We just want him to keep making his improvements and when it’s time, he’ll come back,” Thibodeau continued. “I’ve said this many times: It’s the challenge that we face. Every day, you’re faced with different things that can distract you if you allow it to, so you have to guard against that constantly. Sometimes it’s injuries, sometimes it’s schedule, Taj out, Kirk out—whatever it might be—a lot of games on the road, back-to-backs, early start, late start, whatever it is and you’ve got to guard against all that stuff.
“We knew going in, we knew what the circumstances were going to be this year. There was no timetable. There was no date we were saying, ‘Okay, he’s going to be back this date.’ It’s when he’s ready and we knew that going in, so we can’t allow that to be an excuse for us not getting the job done. We’ve got to get the job done. We’ve shown that we’re capable and we’re obviously capable of playing better than we’ve been playing recently,” he added.