PHILADELPHIA – With less than a month until the regular season comes to an end, it would seem that time would be running out on Derrick Rose being a full participant in returning to practices with his Bulls teammates.
That doesn’t mean playing with USA Basketball this summer is out of the question. If anything, it’s still very much in play and something both Rose and coach Tom Thibodeau want to see happen.
“He’s doing fine, he’s doing a little bit more, but he’s nowhere near to practicing,’’ Thibodeau said after the Wednesday shootaround. “At this point, maybe he’ll get a couple practices at the end, but we just want him to lock into the rehab and making sure he’s 100 percent healthy.’’
The “couple practices at the end’’ would be important for Rose (right knee), just from the standpoint of making sure he’s up-and-running for what could be a key summer for him. The last time he played with USA Basketball in an offseason, he walked out of it with a whole new confidence, as well as the eventual NBA MVP in the 2010-11 season.
That’s why Thibodeau confirmed that there is a plan in place to move him in that direction again this summer.
“Yeah, there’s a plan for him, and it’s going to be based on step-by-step, so when he masters one phase and we feel it’s good enough, he’ll move on to the next,’’ Thibodeau said. “He’s moving along pretty much as planned, and we’ll see where he is in the summer.’’
USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has said on several occasions that Rose, who was already selected to the player pool, would be welcomed with open arms, as long as Rose felt the knee was ready to participate.
“Oh absolutely,’’ Thibodeau said, when asked if he still wants to see Rose play this summer. “If he’s healthy and he’s cleared? I thought it was a great experience for him before. I know he’d like to do it. I know how USA Basketball feels about him. So if he’s cleared to do it, I’d love to see him do it.’’
It doesn’t hurt that Thibodeau is an assistant on the team and could keep eyes on his star player on a daily basis.
“The thing I have a lot of respect for – and [USA Basketball Chairman] Jerry [Colangelo] and Mike [Krzyzewski] have both said this – is they’re never going to put a player in harm’s way,’’ Thibodeau said. “So if a team doesn’t feel it’s in the best interest of the player, they’re not going to put pressure on the player to play. They’re always going to do what’s best for the player.’’