Thibs: Never too late for Rose to return

Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls are being patient with the return of Derrick Rose. Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images

SAN ANTONIO -- Despite having just 22 games remaining in the regular season, Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Wednesday there is no drop-dead date after which the Bulls will feel it's too late for Derrick Rose to return from ACL surgery.

"It's when he's ready, and that's the big thing," Thibodeau said. "We're just going to keep going as we are. As long as he's making that steady progress, hopefully (his return) happens, but we're prepared either way."

While the Bulls are hoping the 24-year-old point guard returns this season, they're not rushing him. Rose and his camp recently floated the idea of his missing the rest of the season.

Thibodeau confused some people on Tuesday when he described Rose's situation as "day-to-day," but Rose's official designation for Wednesday's game against the San Antonio Spurs is "out."

Thibodeau was asked Wednesday what it would take for him to put Rose, who's been practicing 5-on-5, in the lineup.

"The big thing is no matter what you do in practice, you're still not getting to a game-like intensity," he said. "You strive to get it as close to game-like as you can.

"He's got to be comfortable with where he is and he has to do it for an extended period of time, and we'll know when he gets there. As long as he's moving in the right direction, everything is good."

Thibodeau maintains it will not take Rose long to find chemistry with his teammates if he does return this season.

"I think the big thing, too, is he's been practicing for an extended amount of time now," Thibodeau said. "So I think that's helpful."