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Derrick Rose flies with Bulls on trip, but February still targeted for return

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau says Derrick Rose still has long way go before he returns. | Wilfredo Lee~AP

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau says Derrick Rose still has a long way to go before he returns. | Wilfredo Lee~AP

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Updated: January 1, 2013 11:37PM



The Bulls’ charter from Chicago to Orlando on Tuesday afternoon was about 190 pounds heavier than normal this season.

And, no, Derrick Rose didn’t have to stow away to get on the flight.

For the first time since blowing out the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the first round of the playoffs last season, Rose traveled with the team for the two-game trip to Orlando and Miami. But before Bulls fans run out and buy tickets to home games in January, the announcement came with a warning from coach Tom Thibodeau: “Everyone has to be patient.’’

Thibodeau said it had been planned for a while, and Rose’s presence with the team didn’t change the fact that a mid- to late-February return was still the target.

But he said Rose is closer to being a full participant in practice — contact and all.

“You have a general plan, and it could be altered depending on how things are going, but this is what we planned all along,’’ Thibodeau said. “There’s really no change. He’s doing more basketball stuff now and less of the weight-training and rehab stuff. He’s still doing that, but he’s added the basketball component. He’s doing both.’’

Asked about the full practices in the next few weeks, Thibodeau said, “We’ll see. He’s making good, steady progress, and that’s what we want. It’s the type of injury that we knew would take time, so we want everyone to be patient and let him work through it.’’

Patience hasn’t been a problem for Thibodeau, who has been stoic when Rose is the topic. His lack of enthusiasm, at least publicly, also has rubbed off on his players.

“It’s definitely tempered, and obviously everybody is going to be excited when he comes back,’’ Kirk Hinrich said. “At the same time, it’s about his well-being and making sure he’s ready to go. Nobody wants to rush him back. He had a serious injury. He’s one of the best players in the world, and you can’t rush him back.’’

And just because he’s on the flight doesn’t mean Rose is ready to be on the bench with his teammates. Because of his rehab schedule, there’s a good chance he’ll watch the games from the locker room for the time being.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially because Rose has been seeing the game from a completely different perspective since the injury.

“That’s Derrick’s nature; that’s who Derrick is; he’s always learning,’’ Thibodeau said. “So he’s always adding to what he already does well.

“There are things he sees out there that we talk about. He’s a student of the game. He sees what’s going on not only with our team, but around the league, so he likes to talk the game. And that’s why he’s so good.’’

So Thibodeau offered up a bit more detail on the next few weeks, but any talk about a definite return was met with vague responses.

“Whether it’s after the All-Star break, two weeks after, it’s when he’s ready,’’ Thibodeau said. “We don’t want to put a date on it. I think it’s just going step by step. When he makes it through some practices for an extended amount of time, there’s not any soreness the next day, we’ll make a decision then, but he’s still got a long way to go.’’

NOTES: Joakim Noah missed practice Tuesday with flulike symptoms but was expected to travel with the team and be evaluated at the shootaround Wednesday in Orlando.

Kirk Hinrich didn’t practice because of the bone bruise in his left knee, but he was hoping to play against the Magic after missing Monday’s game against the Bobcats.



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