By Ben Golliver
Step by step, Derrick Rose gets closer to returning.
ESPNChicago.com reports that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters Wednesday that Rose, who is rehabilitating from an ACL tear in his left knee suffered last April, has participated in "full contact" portions of practice.
"He's full-contact, yeah," Thibodeau said before Wednesday's morning shootaround as the Bulls prepared to face the Milwaukee Bucks.
"He can do all the cutting, he can do shooting, he can go off the dribble," Thibodeau said. "So it's just a matter of him getting acclimated to playing in a game situation. You have to understand that in practice you're striving to get as close to a game-like intensity as you can, but you also have to understand that you're not going to be able to get there, so that will be a whole different level. And we have to make sure that he's ready to handle that intensity."
Rose began practicing with the Central Division-leading Bulls in December, but was initially limited to running, shooting and walk-through work. He still does not have a firm timetable for his return, although it's still expected to be after All-Star Weekend, which runs from Feb. 15-17 in Houston. The Bulls have repeatedly stated that they will take a cautious approach in managing his recovery.
The 2011 MVP's return couldn’t be more eagerly anticipated, and his rehabilitation from May surgery was painstakingly chronicled in a national video ad campaign from Adidas.
“I got a lot of confidence with the team that we have,” Rose said in the video campaign’s final episode. “They see me lifting all the time, shooting, just trying to do extra just to show them that just because I’m not on the court with them that I’m still working my butt off so that I can get back on the court as quick as possible.” Rose, 24, sustained his knee injury during Game 1 of a first-round playoff series against the 76ers. He's one of a number of major NBA stars to suffer knee injuries this season. The No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft, Rose holds career averages of 21 points, 6.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds. In his absence, the Bulls are 27-17, good for third place in the Eastern Conference and 1½ games ahead of the Pacers in the Central.