Derrick Rose takes 'next step'

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Derrick Rose took "the next step" in his return from knee surgery by taking more contact in practice on Tuesday.

"He did a little bit more," Thibodeau said afterward. "He's taking on some contact. He's doing fine. He's been cleared for more contact so we went to the next step today."

Up to this point, Rose has been taking what Thibodeau called "predictable contact" in controlled settings in practice.

"You have to remember in practice you're trying to get it as close to a game-like condition as you can with the understanding that there's nothing like a game," Thibodeau said. "There's nothing that matches that intensity. We strive to get it there, but it's different. We have to make sure he can handle this intensity first and then we'll go from there, but he's doing great. He's shown great patience, and everybody has to show great patience."

Rose injured his knee on April 28 in the first game of the Eastern Conference playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers and had surgery on May 12. He was expected to be out eight to 12 months, according to team physician Brian Cole.

"He looks good. He looks great," Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler said Tuesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "Playing, shooting the ball well. It's just crazy to know his rehab, and he's moving so much better. It's just going to be super exciting for everybody: us, the fans, and the organization, whenever he comes back."

Thibodeau cautioned that Rose's return to actual games is still a ways away. He wants to make sure his star point guard is medically cleared and ready.

"It's going to be a while," Thibodeau said. "It's the next step in the rehab. Everyone has to be patient. He's doing fine, he's playing more, he's practicing more, so he's doing well. We want him to concentrate on rehab, the team just continue to concentrate on improvement and our next opponent. Nothing's changed."

Thibodeau noted that one of the biggest challenges is finding enough practice time for Rose to get back into a rhythm with his teammates, but he is confident they will be able to make that happen the next few weeks.

"We know it's going to take time," Bulls guard Richard Hamilton said. "We just kind of allow Derrick to (be) him. It was good to see him just out on the floor moving around getting a little contact and things like that. With us we just want him to take his time ... We didn't do a whole lot of contact with him personally, but it's one of them things when he's out there he doesn't want you to back up off of him because he wants to challenge himself."

The Bulls (24-16) have managed to win without Rose this season, trailing the Indiana Pacers by one game in the Central Division. Their 95-83 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday was their eighth win in their past 11 games.

Thibodeau said Luol Deng, who has missed the past three games because of a hamstring injury, will be a game-time decision for Wednesday's game against the Detroit Pistons.