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Derrick Rose and Co. need to start getting healthy as regular season approaches

All of a sudden, welcoming in King James and the rest of the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers for the regular-season opener doesn’t feel so far away.

And even with a 2-1 preseason record after defeating Minnesota on Saturday night, the Bulls will need every day of the two-plus weeks left before the games start meaning something.

Taj Gibson (offseason ankle surgery) is admittedly up-and-down in his recovery, yet to play in an exhibition game, while Mike Dunleavy (back surgery) could be out until at least December. Then there’s the enigma that is Derrick Rose, who should be able to begin basketball activity on Thursday, after the Bulls host Detroit Wednesday night at the United Center.

The key word being should.

Rose took a Gibson elbow to the face back on Sept. 29, and after undergoing surgery the next day, was given a two-week window to return to the court. At the same time, Rose was also expected back at the Advocate Center last week, with the goal to have the point guard sit next to first-year coach Fred Hoiberg and do some on-the-job-training by just watching.

Swelling in the eye, however, forced doctors to make Rose stay at his residence and Hoiberg to do some serious home-schooling. The expectation was that Rose would be able to rejoin his teammates this week, and start getting back into basketball shape, but this is Rose after all, so expectations should be guarded.

As for Gibson, he’s been practicing with his teammates, but the Bulls are taking a very cautious approach to their sixth man playing in games.

“Every day my body’s been up and down,’’ Gibson said. “For every good day I have, I may be sore another two days. But the training staff says it’s good for my body. I haven’t run or done any athletic things in like three months, so for me to catch lobs and dunk now, it feels good but I have to get my body back used to it.

“I’m banging with the rook, Bobby [Portis], then I’m going against Niko [Mirotic], then maybe I get a little physical with Joakim [Noah]. Every day is real physical. My wind is up and down running. It’s fun. But every night it’s all about seeing the training staff and getting realigned.’’

Rookie rumblings

When Gar Forman said on media day that Bulls fans were going to love first-round pick Bobby Portis, he wasn’t exaggerating.

The 22nd pick overall hasn’t disappointed through the first three preseason games, not only playing with an edge that the Bulls really needed, but proving to be a relentless rebounder.

His eight rebounds in the Saturday win over the Timberwolves was a preseason low, as the 6-foot-11 big man is still averaging 12.7 boards per game, while slowly improving his scoring, putting up 12 points in that win over Minnesota.

So who does Portis credit for playing big brother to him so far?

“Joakim for sure,’’ Portis said. “He’s like the big brother I never had. Growing up I was always the oldest. I never had a big brother. He’s been there pushing me so far, reminding me everything I do should be hard and tenacious. I kind of feed off of his energy, and both of us try and bring the team up a little bit.’’