DEERFIELD — Derrick Rose did some back-tracking after Thursday’s practice at the Berto Center, in an attempt to ensure he wasn’t in hot water with the person who holds the most sway over him: Brenda Rose, his mother.
After Rose stated that “It could be my mom, she’s getting killed,” following Wednesday’s Bulls practice, the former league MVP seemed to realize that he went a bit too far in the spirit of competition.
I got a call [from his mother] late last night, but I was knocked out. She was probably up watching the news. I don’t know how the conversation’s going to go today, but it should be interesting,” he said Thursday. “She doesn’t even go on the court. I don’t know the last time she stepped on the court. She likes watching basketball, but she doesn’t play at all.”
On a more serious note, it was business as usual for the point guard Thursday, with the exception of the Bulls not being able to scrimmage, due to the Berto Center floor being slippery as a result of the humidity in the practice facility, which is in its final season of use.
“We didn’t get a chance to go up and down, so [Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau] stopped it and we got on the bike a little bit. But we went as hard as we can. We kept switching ends,” Rose noted. “You know Thibs, he doesn’t care. He wasn’t going to stop practicing or anything. We just kept switching ends like four or five times and then, he said, ‘Forget it,’ and we got on the [stationary] bikes.”
All-Star center Joakim Noah and veteran reserve guard Kirk Hinrich each sat out for the second consecutive day, though Thibodeau insisted it was for precautionary reasons, due to the floor, and not the “overall soreness” he cited Wednesday.
“They’re both better. We just want to make sure they’re completely healed,” said Thibodeau, who added that Noah is “in great shape and he feels good,” in response to a query about the big man’s chronic plantar fasciitis. “The way we look at it is training camp is the whole month. I want to make sure they’re completely healthy. We’ll see where they are tomorrow. They were a lot better today. But the floor was real slippery so I didn’t want them to go because of that.
“Whatever is thrown at us, we have to handle. We got most of what we wanted to get done on the floor. It was probably a half-hour short. We jumped on the bikes, watched film and then the guys got some extra shooting done. We didn’t want to take any chances with the floor,” he continued.
“The start of the preseason, you’re getting a look at a lot of guys. I’m evaluating based on what was done in the fall, this week in camp and then what happens in the game. You want to see responses to each situation. Some guys have practiced real well. Some guys have not practiced as well as they could. You’re looking at it in totality. In a game, you’re looking at rotations. The starters won’t play their usual minutes. They’ll play shorter. You want to look at your bench guys. And then you want to look at some guys who are competing for that last spot.”
With one practice remaining before the Bulls hit the road to begin their exhibition slate, Thibodeau went on to discuss Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Central Division rival Pacers in Indianapolis.
“You build your base and your foundation and then you want to prepare for what you’re going to be facing,” he explained. “When you play another team, it gives you like a baseline. You want to see where you are. To me, it’s a good measuring stick.”
Obviously Rose’s performance will be closely observed and while Thibodeau truly is concerned about everything from the point guard’s play to the free agents vying for the Bulls’ 13th roster spot, the coach did acknowledge the importance of the Chicago native’s progress in his return from a season-long layoff.
“It’s the next step. We’ve had the opportunity to watch him for a while. We’ve done a lot of things in practice to make it as close to game-like in terms of intensity and speed. It’s not only Derrick and that’s what we have to be careful of. It’s how he functions with the rest of the team and how the rest of the team functions with him. We’re talking about somebody who’s been out close to 17 months. There’s some rust. But each day, it’s gotten significantly better.
"He’s gotten more comfortable. His timing is back. But there will be ups and downs as he gets used to playing. There’s nothing you can do that can make it like a game. You get to the preseason and you go up a level. When the regular season comes, it will be at a higher level. He’s taking it day by day, doing all the right things. We don’t want him or the team to skip any steps. The challenge is for everyone to be ready,” Thibodeau explained.
“The challenge for him is to maintain the discipline. He’s put a lot of work into his body with the weight training and stretching and all those things. Now when he gets to the games and you hit different stretches throughout the course of the season where you may be playing four games in five days. He’s got to continue to do all those things he has been doing. His body is very strong. In practice, he’s constantly attacking the basket. His speed and quickness and strength are all back.”
As much as he tends to play his cards close to the vest, Thibodeau reiterated his plan to play Rose in six-to-eight minute stints against the Pacers, similar to his other regulars, though that shouldn’t be taken as a reflection of what he’s capable of handling.
“I think that’s normal. Normally, with your starters in the preseason you try to play six to eight minutes. Then you get a look at your second group for 6-8 minutes. We’ll see how much he can handle. He’s handled everything thus far,” the coach explained. “We’re basically scrimmaging three 12-minute quarters. He’s getting used to that in addition to the rest of the practice. We’re trying to give him the type of workload that he’ll be facing.”
As for Rose himself, while he claims he’s fine with any minutes, simply wants to play again and is unconcerned with the hubbub surrounding his ever-imminent return to the floor, one gets the sense that while he’s growing weary of the build-up, he’s just grateful that the conclusion of his recovery is nearing.
“I haven’t talked to Thibs yet. However long he wants me to be out there, I’m going to be out there. I haven’t talked to him yet, but whenever he needs me, I’m going to make sure I’m ready,” he said. “It could be two or four, it doesn’t matter. As long as I’m on the court and playing this game I’ve been missing all year, I’m just happy to step out there, being with my teammates, just being involved and feeling like a player.
“Really, just being out there. Just try not to be too anxious and just trying to win that game. Trying to take it one game at a time, trying to get better every practice leading up to the game and just trying to get my wind back,” Rose added. “For me, I can’t get caught up into [the anticipation of his first game back]. My job is to go out there, perform and just try to win every game. That’s why I’m trying to make it as simple as possible.”
After Saturday, the focus will switch to dissecting his every move against NBA competition, but to Rose, it will be a welcome change.