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updated: 2/17/2012 9:28 PM

Rose's return getting closer

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  • Joakim Noah has recorded four double-doubles in his last five games, averaging over 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls.

      Joakim Noah has recorded four double-doubles in his last five games, averaging over 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Bulls received more encouraging injury news about Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton on Friday, but no word on when either player will return to action.

Rose has missed the past four games with back spasms. When practice ended at the Berto Center, he was shooting free throws and 3-pointers with John Lucas III, as usual.

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But it seems likely that Rose will sit out Saturday's game against New Jersey. There is probably a better chance he'll return on Monday against Atlanta.

"We'll see how he feels," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "This is the first time he's done more activity. Each day he's gotten better, he's done more. We're just going step by step.

"If he's feeling good, he should play. If he's not feeling good, he shouldn't. He's got to be cleared medically first and we want him to be pain-free. Those are the two things we're looking at."

Hamilton ran full-speed after practice, working on the curls and jumpers he typically gets during games. The veteran shooting guard hasn't played since Jan. 28 because of a groin strain and thigh bruise.

"He did a little more today, too," Thibodeau said. "He did some shooting, so that was a good sign. He still has a long way to go, but he's feeling a lot better."

The Bulls figure to be extra cautious with Hamilton, who is 34. He needs time to get healthy, then build himself back into basketball shape so he doesn't have any recurrence the rest of the season. He's likely to remain sidelined at least through the all-star break.

Big men step in:

Since Derrick Rose started having back problems, the Bulls have gotten more from their big men. Carlos Boozer has averaged 19.8 points and shot 56.5 percent from the field in the last six games.

Center Joakim Noah has collected four double-doubles in the last five games and has averaged 16.6 points and 12.2 rebounds in that time.

Forward Luol Deng has 21 assists in the last two games. Is this all by design or does it happen naturally without Rose?

"The plays are the same. It's just the way it is," Thibodeau said. "Luol's in more pick-and-rolls. We want to play inside-out. We want to score easy baskets."

Added Noah, "I don't think my role changes at all. I feel like I could have played better yesterday. I missed a lot of easy baskets around the rim. I think it's all about winning. When Derrick comes back, he makes the game a lot easier for a lot of us. So having him definitely helps."

Bull horns:

Kyle Korver was excused from Friday's practice, but he is expected back for Saturday's game against the Nets. He had his worst shooting night of the season (0-for-5 from 3-point range) against Boston. ... Former Denver shooting guard J.R. Smith, once considered a possible Bulls target, announced via Twitter that he plans to sign with the Knicks once he's cleared by the Chinese basketball league.

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