Between the Monday morning shootaround and the evening tip-off with Toronto, please, no one cough on Derrick Rose.
After missing the last two games with flu-like symptoms, Rose was back at practice on Sunday, going through all the drills and getting the thumbs up from coach Tom Thibodeau on a likely return against the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors.
The hope is the 2011 MVP can pick up where he left off before having to take a two-game sick day.
“He had a nice run going, and unfortunately he got sick,’’ Thibodeau said. “There’s nothing you can do about it, other than try and get healthy and get back out there. But I felt that as he started to string the games together he was getting better and better. That’s encouraging.’’
That it was, as the point guard actually put 11 straight starts together, and over his last seven was averaging 17.7 points and 5.9 assists per game. Sure the three-point shooting was off (25 percent), and the Bulls were only 4-3 in those last seven, but there were signs.
Considering how rough the first month of the season went, they were signs that Thibodeau saw pointing up.
“Well, he is where he is,’’ Thibodeau said of Rose’s season so far. “When he’s been out there I think he’s played very well. There’s been some bumps, which we anticipated. I just want him putting everything he has into each and every day, just keep getting better.’’
Which Rose said he’s been trying to do. Sort of.
“I’m going to try to go,’’ Rose said. “The sickness probably came from me being around my son. He was sick, and probably from being around him. I’ll take that any day, just spending time around my son.’’
Nikola Mirotic has seen a lot of single-digit-minute nights when the Bulls have been at full strength up front, playing behind Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, but fresh off a career-high 27-point game in Memphis, the rookie is forcing Thibodeau to make a tough decision.
“I’m not thinking a lot,’’ Mirotic said of his recent play. “I’m trying to play simple basketball. If I have an open shot, I take the shot. If I need to pass, I make one extra pass. I need to be ready.
“The next game, I don’t know if I will play five or 15 minutes. But I really don’t care. Just always try to play simple and try to help the team.’’
Thibodeau compared Mirotic’s season to Omer Asik’s, where he could be forced into giving a first-year player more minutes.
“It’s very similar to Omer,’’ Thibodeau said. “I went into the season knowing from the time that I was around him that I liked him. I didn’t know how much he would play or how much he’d be ready for.
You never know that until they get out there and you see them function. Everything that [Mirotic] has done, whether it’s short or long minutes, he’s done well. I like that. And I just like the way he approaches things.’’
Thibodeau coached last season’s Defensive Player of the Year in Noah, and the way the coach was talking on Sunday, that trophy might be staying in Chicago, just above Jimmy Butler’s fireplace this time.
“I think when you look at the offense now to go along with the defense, there aren’t too many players like that in the league,’’ Thibodeau said of his two guard. “He’s a power-type player, he guards everyone on the floor. You can make a case for him that’s he’s one of the top defenders in the league.’’