There's no doubt Saturday will be a milestone in Derrick Rose's long journey back from ACL surgery. Then again, it is the Bulls' initial preseason game, which would be remarkably insignificant without the former MVP's return.
Rose talked Thursday about his impending return to NBA game action, which will take place in Indianapolis against the Pacers. He's treated the first week of training camp as an exhilarating experience, so his first game action since April 28, 2012 will fall right in line.
"My job is to go out there, perform and try to win every game," Rose said after practice at the Berto Center. "That's how I'm trying to make it as a simple as possible."
Rose thinks he's already passed every significant milestone when it comes to testing the health of his knee. His biggest challenge is getting back into game shape.
He's talked about how his confidence has grown during the time off. That seems to be the natural result of working out constantly and spending much of his down time studying the game.
Coach Tom Thibodeau offered an encouraging opinion of Rose's status, two days before the preseason opener.
"In practice, he's constantly attacking the basket," Thibodeau said. "His speed, quickness and strength are all back."
One question now is how much Rose will play against the Pacers. Starters normally play around 25 minutes in early preseason games, maybe less.
Thibodeau talked about playing the starters for 6-8 minutes, then watching the subs for the same amount of time. So it's probable Rose will play early in the first quarter, late in the second quarter, open the third with the rest of the starters, then sit out the rest of the night while some of the guys competing for a roster spot finish the fourth quarter.
"However long he wants me to be out there, I'm going to be out there," Rose said. "I haven't talked minutes with him yet. But wherever he needs me or whenever he needs me, I'm going to make sure I'm ready.
"It could be 2 or 4 (minutes). It doesn't matter, as long as I'm on the court playing this game I've been missing for a whole year. I'm just happy to step out there. Being with my teammate again, being involved and feeling like a player."
Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich missed practice for the second straight day with unspecified injuries, so the Bulls may not have their full starting lineup on the floor. Still, this will be a chance to see how Rose and Jimmy Butler work together in the backcourt, and also provide the first look at Mike Dunleavy in a Bulls uniform.
It will also be interesting to see how quickly Rose tries to drive into the lane. Indiana is one of the more physical teams in the league, but Rose seems eager to test his skills.
"I came in this league as a driver and I'm not going to stop driving the ball," Rose said. "I know that's my strength and me getting to the lane opens up the floor for my teammates to make open shots.
"It's really pick your poison: If you're going to sag off, I'm going to shoot. If you're on me, I'm going to try to go past you and just put pressure on your defense."
Rose credited his teammates for helping get him preseason-ready so far in practice.
"Our second string, they come in, they play hard. They really challenge us in the (scrimmage) games," he said. "It's almost like a playoff atmosphere when we're playing out here because they're trying to win as bad as we are. The competitive nature in both squads is going to make us become a good team."