Thibs: Even Rose doesn't know return date

Derrick Rose participated fully in practice again Wednesday. Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau Wednesday said he doesn't believe even Derrick Rose knows when the former MVP will return to the court following knee surgery.

"I think (Rose is) being very truthful in what he said," Thibodeau said. "I don't think he knows (if he'll return this year). The way he's approached (rehab) and this is from the moment he had the surgery, the next day, he puts everything he has into whatever he's being asked to do. He says he'll know when it's time. And we have to trust him. And as I said before, I trust him implicitly.

"He'll tell all of us (when he's ready). Trust me, he understands what's going on here. We just have to work through it."

Rose said March 12 that he can do everything in practice but he still needs to get his confidence back, and he didn't rule out sitting the entire season.

The Bulls enter Thursday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers with a 36-30 record. Thibodeau and Rose have said there is no drop dead date for a return, but time seems to be running out with just 16 games left in the regular season.

"Whenever he's ready," Thibodeau said. "He's got to feel good for a while. That's the most important thing that when he finally does go on the floor we want him to be comfortable. Whatever the circumstances are, I think you have to make the best of those circumstances. If there's limited minutes that's fine, too. We'll see. I don't want to jump ahead. I just want him to keep making the progress that he's making.

"He feels a little bit better each day and that's the most important thing. So really in many ways nothing has changed from the standpoint of our players have to continue to focus on daily improvement and I think the big thing is the time of the season, too, is it's the grind of the season and you're fighting mental fatigue as well as the physical fatigue. And that's what we have to clean up so we can continue to improve and play our best down the stretch."

Thibodeau was asked if there would be a minutes limit if and when Rose returns this season.

"We have some general parameters," Thibodeau said. "But once the final step is made we'll ... because again, we don't know when (the return) will be. We've had the opportunity because of our schedule to do a little bit more scrimmaging which I think has been very helpful. So hopefully he keeps moving along."

Thibodeau said Rose is better each day and actually feels "pretty good," but he noted that short scrimmages in practice aren't the same as actual games.

"No matter what we're doing we can't get it to a game-like intensity," Thibodeau said. "We strive to, but that's not going to happen in practice. And his game is explosion, stop and go, and all that so he has to feel very good about all that. It's very unique. It's power, it's speed, it's quickness, it's agility, it's a combination of all those things. His change of direction is such a big part of his game that we got to make sure he's completely ready to do that. He's handled his part great."

Thibodeau said even as Rose continues to rehab he has still shown the ability to be the best player on the floor.

"He's had some very good practices," Thibodeau said. "He keeps getting better. The big thing about his game is he makes the game easy for everyone else because he commands so much attention and he knows how to create easy scoring opportunities for everybody. And that's the mark of a superstar, the ability to make others better, and he does that on both ends."

Rose has put a lot of work into his shot during the rehab process and Thibodeau hopes to see the improvement when Rose returns.

"He's put a lot of work in," Thibodeau said. "He's put so much work into his shot. I think he feels a big part of shooting is confidence and concentration and he's had an opportunity to do both of those things for an extended amount of time now so he's feeling very good about his shot.

"He's mixing his game up extremely well right now, he's got the shot and the drive going so it's good but that's also who he is. I think each year when you look at his game, he's never satisfied and that's what makes him so special. It's not only all the talent that he has but it's also the drive and he'll continue to get better throughout his career."

Gibson, who is recovering from a sprained MCL and hopes to play Thursday, can see improvement in Rose.

"I think he's doing a great job," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "He's staying the course. That's the one thing I see, I see progression and every day he lifts. Mostly since I've been (hurt), I've been doing the same drills he does. So seeing progression, seeing him get back almost to full strength is great."