Every next step Derrick Rose takes in his journey back to the hardwood after tearing his ACL on April 28, 2012, is bound to generate buzz, but the Chicago Bulls prefer to keep the true timetable for Rose's return a bit murky.
The superstar point guard recently joined his teammates for a road trip for the first time -- a two-game trip with games against the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat -- so, naturally, everyone assumes Rose is getting even closer to coming back.
The centerpiece of the Bulls franchise has been participating in non-contract drills for several weeks, but head coach Tom Thibodeau has shown no interest in giving up a calendar date to feed the rumor mill. This week reporters asked if the All-Star Break qualified as a target date for Rose or the team, and here's the answer Thibs provided to them (via ESPN Chicago):
"It's when he's ready," Thibodeau said. "So that's not anything that has changed from the start of the season. It's when he's ready. It's not going to be sooner, later, 'This is the target date.' It's just when he's ready. So he's doing practice, the predictable contact in practice. The next step will be regular practice. Then he has to be able to go through regular practice for a while. And then, if everything goes well, then he plays.
"But there's no time schedule, so it's everything according to plan. It's just the next step. There's several steps he has to go through. There's several more that he has to go through -- so everything's going well. Nothing has changed."
The question of when Rose will return is getting worn out, but can you really blame Bulls fans and media for wanting to know when they will get a chance to watch the youngest MVP in league history perform on the floor again?
The Bulls (17-13) have kept themselves in the playoff mix during Rose's absence, but the ceiling for this 2012-13 version of the Bulls depends entirely on how healthy Rose can get by springtime. Rose will be in Miami with the team for their game against LeBron James and the Heat on Friday night (7 p.m. CT, ESPN).