Derrick Rose has changed his rehab routine in one visible sense:
He's often shooting around in public, so to speak, after the doors have opened at the United Center, which means dozens of fans are crowded into the lower rows, usually with camera phones in hand.
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Coach Tom Thibodeau suggested the long-awaited "next step" in Rose's return from a torn ACL -- full contact practice -- could happen this week.
Before getting too excited, Thibodeau emphasized the word "could" when he spoke. And it's also unclear how much practice Rose will need before being cleared for game action.
"He has to go through that (full-contact practice) for an extended amount of time," Thibodeau said before Monday's game. "It's not going to be, 'OK, one or two days of contact and he's going to be out there.' That's not going to happen.
"Just be patient. Everyone has to be patient. He's doing his part. He's showing great patience. Everybody else has to. He's got to continue to focus on rehab. Our guys have to focus on their improvement and our opponent."
The Bulls won't do much all-out scrimmaging, with four games per week during the next two weeks. They were scheduled to have four days off after playing in Atlanta on Feb. 2, but the Indiana makeup game was plunked in the middle of that time off, on Feb. 4.
Even if the regulars don't go all-out in practice, it's possible the Bulls could stage a scrimmage with Rose and the reserves, who typically do more on off-days to keep in shape.
The original plan was for Rose to return in late February or early March, after the Feb. 17 all-star game. Is it possible he'd play sooner, maybe on Feb. 11 at home against San Antonio? Sure it's possible, but no one has the answer yet.
Noah survives benching:
Although it's accurate to say Joakim Noah was benched at the end of Saturday's overtime loss to Memphis, it's clearly not a major issue.
Coach Tom Thibodeau often rides a hot lineup if the Bulls are making a comeback, and he didn't sub anybody in Saturday's fourth quarter, other than Kirk Hinrich jumping in for a couple of defensive possessions.
The only time when it became unusual was when Thibodeau sent backup Nazr Mohammed onto the floor instead of Noah when Taj Gibson fouled out in the final minute of overtime. Mohammed played just 2.3 seconds, then checked out because the Bulls needed 3-point shooters.
"He understands," Thibodeau said at the morning shootaround. "The team has to come first, that's the most important thing. Sometimes that happens in-game, not a big deal.
"I just felt we were so flat that that group was either going to win the game or lose the game for us. They were the ones that overcame a big deficit."
Planning for the worst:
Asked about the Bulls building a 23-16 record -- before Monday's game -- without Rose, coach Tom Thibodeau, naturally, feels it could have been better.
"I like our team," Thibodeau said. "I guess you don't believe me, but I believe we have more than enough. If we do the right things, we're capable of beating anyone anywhere. We have to continue to do that and I still think we have a lot of room for growth. That's the way I want us to be.
"In terms of planning, we knew what the injury was last year. We had all summer to map out how we were going to approach this. Sometimes it may be different when an injury occurs during the season and that's not something you're planning on. But we knew we could plan on this. So we mapped out what we thought would give us the best chance to succeed."
Carlos Boozer was named Eastern Conference player of the week on Monday, averaging 23.0 points and 14.8 rebounds in four games. … Heading into Monday's game, Kobe Bryant, 34, led the NBA in scoring at 29.7 points per game. If this holds up, Bryant would be the second-oldest player to win a scoring title. Michael Jordan was 35 when he led the league in 1997-98.