The Bulls morning shootaround at the Berto Center better known as Groundhog Day, since the news is typically the same, day after day featured Tom Thibodeaus daily proclamation that his starting backcourt of Rip Hamilton and Derrick Rose were game-time decisions for the evenings game.
Said the reigning NBA Coach of the Year: Rip practiced he did the whole practice and Derrick did part of the practice.
However, while Thibodeaus morning declarations can usually be taken with a grain of salt by now, both fans and media alike understand that game-time decision can be translated into out Friday could be a little different.
Hamilton continues to make progress in his recovery from his right-shoulder injury and now that the veteran shooting guard has taken contact and is fully immersed in all team activities, it appears that its a high possibility that he returns to game action against his former team, the Pistons. Ironically, after missing time with groin and thigh injuries early in the season, Hamilton returned to the Bulls lineup for a January reunion at Detroit, after which he subsequently was again sidelined, a result Thibodeau wouldnt like to repeat.
Weve said this all along: A guy coming back shouldnt be based on who the opponent is. It should be based on health. Is he healthy enough to play? If youre healthy enough to practice and youre healthy enough to play, then you play, regardless of who the opponent is and I hope thats the case, he said. Hindsights always 20-20, but I dont know.
Its an unusual season and its a shortened camp, and youre behind it was right at the beginning of the season, so I think he felt that he was healthy enough to play and it didnt work out, but I think at that particular time, you were basing it on the information that we had at that time, Thibodeau continued. Normally, you have four weeks of training camp and you have eight preseason games, so at the end of that month, you have a pretty good read of where everyone is and quite honestly, on that trip, the first trip that we had, Rip played very well. So, there werent any signs, really until we got back, where he was having problems. Thats all gone, thats in the past, so you can only deal with what you have now and I think hes done a great job with his rehab now. His lower bodys completely healthy. Hes moving great, which is critical for anybody, for his shooting and defense. Hes worked hard with his shoulder, so we just have to be patient. When hes completely healthy, he goes.
Despite Thibodeaus philosophy of not returning because of a particular opponent, Rose believes his backcourt partner will indeed suit up Friday against the Pistons at the United Center.
Rips been good. Hes been moving around way more than I have. More than likely, I think hes going to play tonight, definitely against his old team, so I think hes going to be out there, he said. Hes been shooting the ball, getting a lot of treatment along with me and I know everybodys been waiting for him.
As for Rose himself, he could be shelved for a bit longer.
Hes doing a little bit more each day. Hes coming along, so well see where he is tonight, said Thibodeau. Medical clearance first and when hes pain-free, then he goes.
The reigning league MVPs patience has been tested by his most recent ailment, a strained right groin.
Theres not too much to say. Im trying to get better every day, just trying to get healthy. Its coming along, so hopefully Ill be out there soon, he explained. Its killing me. Just being out, missing the action, some good games have been played, but really taking my injury into concern. Im not trying to rush back, where if I do rush back too early, I could re-injure it, so just taking my time.
Im definitely impatient. For me to miss these type of games and miss this amount of games, its definitely been hurting.
Regarding his progress, Rose who participated in the shooting portion of Fridays shootaround has been increasingly more active.
Just pool work, trying to run, getting treatment twice a day and trying to take positive, he said. Ive been able to run, but its not the same. My speed is everything, so just making sure I dont re-pull it.
My speed is my whole entire game. I havent learned to play without my speed. Im not old yet. I havent learned that part of the game yet, added Rose. If Im feeling like I can do a little bit more, Ill stay in and do extra work. Ive got two treatments a day, where I come in early in the morning, like at 10, and then come back later in the day, like at 5, so just trying to get better.
Although Thibodeau likely wouldnt approve, Rose indulged the assembled media by looking ahead to Sundays marquee matchup against the Western Conference-leading Thunder at Oklahoma City.
Depending on how I feel. If I feel healthy enough to go out there, Im going to play. If not, Im not going to play, he said. For me to play, it would be great, but if not, I know that if we make it far and they make it far, well have a chance to play them.
Rose is close with fellow All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook of the Thunder, with whom he shares off-season workouts in California, though he claims they dont stay in contact during the season.
Not during the season, but after the season. Of course, we work out together, he said. But friendship is great, where our families are close, were definitely close and itll hurt me not to play that game.
Rose also opined on the leagues MVP race and named Oklahoma Citys Kevin Durant, the two-time reigning league scoring champion, as the likely heir apparent to his throne.
KD is playing great, man. Just hearing about what hes doing, about how hes playing. Numbers speak for themselves, how he was working out last summer and hes been playing great basketball, he said. I think KD, man. KD for sure.