The former MVP point guard continues to practice without restrictions, but his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee remains up in the air.
“We’ll see when he’s ready,” Thibodeau said. “He’s getting there. He’s not quite there yet.”
ESPNChicago.com reported Friday that Rose’s doctor has cleared him to play, but he has told the team he won’t until he can dunk with confidence off his left foot. Thibodeau said a decision “hasn’t been finalized yet.”
Asked if Rose would be allowed to play if he felt he was able, Thibodeau said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. We’re just going day by day.” He was also noncommittal when asked if he expects Rose to play this season, saying the Bulls are prepared either way.
“Definitely getting stronger and stronger every day,” guard Nate Robinson said. “Hopefully, he’s right on time and right on schedule. He’ll be back when he’s ready.”
Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in last year’s playoff-opener against Philadelphia, sending the top-seeded Bulls toward a first-round exit, and his recovery has been an ongoing soap opera, particularly in recent weeks.
He first said in an interview with USA Today in February that he was “far away, far away” from being ready, then told a group of reporters that he won’t rush back just to play this season if he isn’t ready. Rose began participating in five-on-five drills in practice and sitting on the bench during games. But his reputation took a hit when his older brother Reggie ripped the Bulls in an interview with ESPNChicago.com, saying the team’s decision to stand pat at the trade deadline could be a “big factor” in whether Derrick returns this season.
Rose obviously has to feel comfortable that he’s ready to return, but the decision is not his alone.
“There’s a lot of people that have to decide,” Thibodeau said. “Obviously, he’s the most important piece. From [chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] on down, everyone has to sign off on it.”
Without Rose, the Bulls were sixth in the Eastern Conference at 34-27 heading into Friday’s game against Utah. They were also missing several other key players, with Thibodeau saying Taj Gibson (knee), Kirk Hinrich (foot) and Richard Hamilton (back) would not play against the Jazz.
As for Rose’s return, the wait continues.
“There are a lot of kids out there that would love to see Derrick Rose come back and play,” Robinson said. “He’s a role model. Everybody looks up to him, including my kids. My son asks every day, `Dad, when’s Derrick coming back?’ I’m like, `I don’t know.’ It’s funny. Derrick’s sitting right next to me on the flight, so when I Skype my son, I take a little peek. He’s like, `There he is, let me talk to him.’ I’m like, `You can’t talk to him, just let him be.’ But [Rose] is working extremely hard, and that’s one thing I definitely respect about him. He’s very humble and he works extremely hard in the game that he loves.”