Rose getting closer to his return

CHICAGO - Derrick Rose stood against a wall in the Bulls’ practice court, bent over at the waist, hands on his thighs. The universal sign for “Let me catch my breath.”

When reporters were let into the Advocate Center court after practice on Monday, that’s what they saw.

Rose walked back and forth for a few seconds, talking to coach Tom Thibodeau, and looked like he was catching his breath again. He then sat down and talked to Joakim Noah for a few minutes, before leaving the court.

Rose told ESPN’s Lisa Salters he will “probably” return this week from his late February meniscectomy. He was slated to be out for four to six weeks.

Rose started "full-contact" practices one week ago and once again, he did everything at practice, Thibodeau said.

Rose hasn't had any setbacks, but Thibodeau wouldn't give a firm date on when or if he’d return this week.

“It’s steady,” Thibodeau said. “Each week he’s gone through each phase of the rehab. He’s progressed well. He hasn’t had any setbacks. The next step is to play in the games. As soon as he’s comfortable to do that, we’ll get started with that.”

The Bulls, 10-10 since Rose’s injury, have five games left in the regular season, with a back-to-back in Orlando and Miami on Wednesday and Thursday. Currently in third place in the Eastern Conference, they play Philadelphia at home Saturday.

Thibodeau called Rose’s conditioning “still a work in progress, but it’s improving.”

“He’s been out a long time,” he said. “The scrimmage part is body-on-body. That conditioning is entirely different. So we’re not expecting him to play 35 minutes. Just go out there and we’ll establish a baseline, run the team and just him being on the floor helps our team.”

Kirk Hinrich returned to practice for the first time since suffering a hyperextended left knee April 1 in Milwaukee. He wouldn’t say if he’d miss a third straight game Wednesday in Orlando.

“I’m not going to rule anything out,” Hinrich said. “I’ve gotten significantly better from yesterday to today. So hopefully, we’ll stay on top of it, keep treating it and see how it feels.”

Hinrich is excited to watch Wisconsin play Duke for the national championship Monday night. The Badgers have several Bulls connections.

Former Bulls strength coach Erik Helland has the same position for the Wisconsin men's basketball team, and senior forward Duje Dukan is the son of Bulls international scout Ivica Dukan. Badgers star Frank Kaminsky’s aunt Karen Stack Umlauf is the Bulls’ director of basketball administration.

“I was excited to see them win [Saturday],” Hinrich said. “Erik and Duje, for sure. Duje was a ball boy here. I think he was 10 when I first got here. It’s been a great tournament and I’m happy for Erik and Duje, for sure.”