Rose to start Thursday's season opener

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Derrick Rose will be in the starting lineup when the Bulls' season begins Thursday night.

A day after acknowledging that Rose would be healthy enough to play, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro left no doubt when asked if his star point guard would be in the lineup for the regular-season opener against the San Antonio Spurs.

After missing three weeks because of an ankle tendon injury, Rose is ready to go.

"I don't think anybody thought the injury would take as long [to heal] as it did, but it was kind of a different injury I guess you could say," Del Negro said after practice. "He feels better, and he's been practicing, so that's a good sign. He's still a little rusty. I thought he practiced pretty well [Tuesday], which was a good sign for us."

Rose is just happy to be back on the floor and feels as if his ankle is getting better every day.

"I'm feeling good," Rose said. "My ankle is warming up. I'm feeling a lot better out there. Now I'm just ready to play."

Exactly how much he will play is still in question. Rose admitted that he still feels about 80 percent and may not be back to feeling like himself until the end of the first month of play.

"I'm still not explosive like [I was]," Rose said. "It's coming along, but it will take a while."

Del Negro realizes Rose still isn't at full strength and will monitor the point guard "minute by minute," and will see "how the flow of the game goes," when it comes to doling out minutes.

Either way, both men are just happy that the reigning rookie of the year is back in the lineup.

"I can't wait," Rose said. "I've been waiting to play for a long time. Now I get the chance. I'm excited."

Nick Friedell covers the Bulls for ESPNChicago.com.