By Nick Friedell | ESPNChicago.com
MILWAUKEE -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Wednesday that Derrick Rose is now taking "full contact" and the only thing left in his return from ACL surgery is putting in more time and then getting acclimated to a game situation.
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Rose's rehab from his April 28 injury and May 12 surgery has steadily progressed to the point that there are no longer any physical limitations.
"He's full-contact, yeah," Thibodeau said before Wednesday's morning shootaround as the Bulls prepared to face the Milwaukee Bucks.
The likely date of Rose's return is after the Feb. 17 All-Star Game.
"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."
Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and executive vice president John Paxson said recently they're going to be cautious with the 2010-11 MVP.
"We don't have the defined plan yet because Derrick is still progressing," Paxson said Friday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "The way he feels and what his body tells him is going to dictate how we do things. But I can tell you one thing -- and this is for certain -- he's going to have to have a high volume of practices and contact, and where he's comfortable on the floor doing things that he used to do naturally. And that takes some time and he's just starting that process now.
"We can't sit here today and say he's going to be back in three weeks or after the All-Star break. Those things are a hope, but his body is going to tell us and then when we get to that point, that's when we're going to have to sit down and determine, after we talk to our doctors and everything, then determine our game plan of minutes and how best to bring him back. We don't want to bring him back and then have a setback because he wasn't totally ready. We want this to be a progression where he comes back, he starts to play and every week he gets better and feels better."
Reinsdorf consistently has maintained Rose won't play in a game until doctors assure him he's ready.
"There's no date," Reinsdorf said during an interview with WGN-TV on Monday. "The doctors say that he's doing everything that he's supposed to be doing and there's no specific date.
"He's not going to come back until the doctors say unequivocally that he has no greater chance of getting hurt than any other player. If there's any risk, he's not coming back."
The Bulls head into action Wednesday 1½ games in front of Indiana atop the Central Division and in third place in the Eastern Conference. Reinsdorf said there will be an acclimation process when Rose returns, but Carlos Boozer, who's been playing his best basketball with the Bulls in Rose's absence, said it won't be a problem.
"I just think we get better, man," said Boozer, who is nursing his own hamstring injury. "I look at it as we're going to improve quite a bit. He'll make a seamless transition, he's here every day, he's practicing every day, and we do a good job of putting people in positions to be successful. So I think for us it will be a seamless transition and we'll just be more dangerous."
Thibodeau appreciates the mindset that his team has kept while waiting for Rose to return.
"That's not a change," Thibodeau said. "Over the course of a normal season those are the things that you have to deal with. Injuries are part of the game, so when we laid out the plan in the beginning of the season we said this is the way we're going to approach this. Everyone concentrate on their improvement each and every day, focus on the opponent that you're playing; Derrick will handle his rehab.
"You could take Derrick's name out and substitute another player -- when there's an injury that's how you have to deal with it and everyone focus on improvement, and hopefully down the stretch you're playing your best basketball of the year and you're as healthy as possible. So whether Derrick's there or not, the approach would be the same. "