SAN ANTONIO—After sitting on the bench for Sunday’s loss at Indiana, speculation grew that Derrick Rose was inching closer to an imminent return to game action.
Whether intentional or not, the Bulls head coach didn’t do much to make that subside with a few key words before Tuesday’s practice at the AT&T Center: “Day-to-day.”
Now, it’s important to put things in context, as Thibodeau was explaining the process that Rose would have to go through to be completely medically cleared to play.
[RELATED: Rose sits on bench for the first time]
“There’s a lot of people that have to weigh in on it and obviously he knows his body. Everybody’s got to sign off on it. Whenever he’s ready, he’s ready. Nothing has changed for us. For our team, I want them to continue to concentrate on improvement and our opponent, and for Derrick, I want him to continue to concentrate on his rehab. We’re 60 games into this now. I think going into the season, we had a lot of question marks. I think we have more answers now. We’ve figured out, I think, who we are. We’re heading down the stretch, we’ve got to continue to improve and then we’ll go from there,” he said. “It’s day-to-day. Whenever he’s ready, he’s ready. We just want him to continue to improve, focus on his rehab and then, when he’s ready to go, we’ll all know. Everyone has to remain patient.”
As Thibodeau indicated, knowingly or not, there isn’t much time left in the regular season for Rose to play—presumably first on a minutes limit—so his comments will only fuel the fire of those who believe that the former league MVP will play any day now.
But while Thibodeau’s exact words, by definition, could be interpreted as the injured point guard’s status changing, the rest of what the coach had to say meshes with the consistent message he’s said throughout the campaign.
[RELATED: Bulls' absences continue to pile up]
When Rose does return to action, at least one teammate believes it will be a fairly seamless transition—and one directly into the starting lineup—perhaps because of what he’s witnessed during five-on-five practice sessions at the Berto Center.
“These guys, especially the unit he’ll be playing with [the Bulls’ starters], they played with him last year. I don’t think it’ll be too big of an adjustment,” said Kirk Hinrich, Rose’s former and current teammate. “He’s that type of player who’s going to make plays for himself and everybody else. It’ll just make it easier, I think. There’s not going to be much integrating.”