Rose hopeful about playing final preseason game

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

By Sam Smith | 10.22.2015 | 9:50 p.m.

Derrick Rose Friday will play in his first preseason game for the 2015-16 season.

Unless, of course, he doesn't.

But it is now looking—even if Rose's rose colored glasses still are showing two of everything—as if Rose will at least play for a few minutes when the Bulls close the preseason in Lincoln, Neb.

"Every day I'm improving," Rose said Thursday following practice in which Rose scrimmaged. "The eye itself, the swelling, is going down. Practice has been going well. Been practicing pretty hard. If everything is all right tomorrow, I'm going to play a little bit.

"They said they just want me out there," Rose added of the coaches. "As long as I'm out there and just moving around I'm not worried about attacking or being aggressive; that's going to come. I just need to be out there. If I wake up and this is worse (then he won't be able to play); if it stays the same (he should be fine). I'm improving every day."

Which sounded a lot like Rose would play at least a few minutes Friday in perhaps an optimistic indication he could be ready for opening night Tuesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said they'll discuss Rose's situation after shootaround Friday.

"If he does play it probably will not be anything more than a five to 10 minute stint," Hoiberg said. "If he's going to play in the opener, it would be nice to see him out there in a little bit of game action. It certainly would help for him to go out there and get some game speed. It will be a matter of him feeling good, comfortable with everything. Anything would be good; even if he gets out there for a two to three minute stretch, just to get out there in game type action.

"Not many guys can take that amount of time (away) and come back and look like an All Star right away," said Hoiberg. "It would be great for him if he can do it. But if he has double vision we obviously won't play him."

Asked if he had double vision, Rose laughed and said through a still badly swollen face, "Right now, I see two of you."

So that page that gets referred to so much in sports about everyone having to get on still isn't quite clear.

Yet, to read between the lines on that unfocused page—I am in early season cliché mania form here—it does appear as if there will be a Rose sighting Friday, albeit brief.

As for the opener, Rose said he wanted to play but also is being asked not to rush for one game.

"For anybody, opening night you want to showcase, show people what you've been doing the entire summer," said Rose. "It's a big night. But at same time if I feel I can't go there's no point rushing it or pushing (so soon)."

Rose did say the mask he'll wear to protect his eye hasn't been an issue.

"I got hit in the face today, actually, but the mask protected it," said Rose about scrimmaging for the first time. "I was scared at first; I didn't feel it that much. The impact wasn't that much. While I'm playing I'm too focused on the game to even notice it. So it shouldn't be a problem."

But Rose admitted there's still an issue with depth perception.

"Just catching the ball, sometimes it's hard to get perception on the ball and how fast it's going," he admitted.

Meanwhile, it also sounded as if Hoiberg has settled, at least for opening night, on his starting lineup of Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, Tony Snell, Jimmy Butler and Rose (or Kirk Hinrich temporarily).

"We'll start same way tomorrow and see how that looks," Hoiberg said of that lineup that opened Tuesday against Indiana. "If it looks good, there's a pretty good chance that's the way we'll go opening night.

"Whatever we decide to do the 27th," Hoiberg emphasized of opening night, "is not necessarily what we do Nov 1. It's not an easy one. It's not an absolute. We'll continue to play different lineups and combinations and see what we like best. There are a lot of guys capable of getting going. We'll make that decision in the flow of the game.

"It's a unique group because of (so many) different players we have and some of the firepower coming off the bench," noted Hoiberg. "It's tough when you've got this many guys who can go in there and make an impact. It's all about getting prepared and getting ready for that opener. We have a lot of guys capable of finishing off an NBA game."

It also appears Doug McDermott is set in a reserve role.

Hoiberg said he planned to start McDermott Friday because McDermott attended Creighton in nearby Omaha. But McDermott told the coach he preferred to come off the bench because that would be his role in the regular season. Hoiberg also said he liked Tony Snell starting with Gasol and Mirotic.

That seemed to suggest, as Hoiberg said he would coming into the final preseason game, a template for the start of the season. If Hoiberg is starting Gasol and Mirotic, who are not strong defenders, it makes sense to start Snell with them since Snell is a versatile defender. Butler will guard the best offensive player as long as he's not a center and then there's the point guard.

Sounds like a plan.

For now, anyway.

The obvious question from media was to Noah about not starting for the first time in several years. Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau started former All-Star center Noah at power forward to accommodate Gasol at center. But that lineup doesn't fit Hoiberg's vision of a court more spread out with shooting.

Hoiberg said he spoke with Noah, and Noah Thursday said, as expected, he's about team first.

"I'm down with whatever coach says is best for the team," said Noah. "I'm a worker, never going to stop working. I'm excited for this team. We have a lot of talent and we just got to keep grinding and keep getting better. I've always been about the team and it's not going to change now. I played well with Taj (Gibson) in the past. It's not about me or Taj. It's about what we can do to make this team better. It's definitely an adjustment but at the end of the day it's basketball. I've got to go out there and bring energy and do what I do."

Hoiberg also said Bobby Portis will play Friday after sitting out Tuesday. And that only further complicates a team strength of capable interior players since Portis has been one of the best players in preseason.

Though all eyes, as usual, will be on Rose even if his eyes aren't as focused yet as they will be.

It's also a process for the team, as Rose noted, echoing comments by players through preseason with the differing lineups and rotations. Players have said it's slow with a new coach regarding terminology and philosophy.

"We have to get organized a little more and learn the offense a little more," said Rose. "Offense wins games; defense wins championships. We are just trying to get on the same page defensively, learn the terminology.

"When you lose a coach like Thibs (Tom Thibodeau), of course, it's going to hurt," said Rose. "All his years as a coach in the NBA his specialty was defense. But at the same time we've got great coaches here we believe in. We just have to follow his rules."

Rose said he'll have more freedom as a result.

"It will take me a little bit to get adjusted to that way of playing (again)," Rose said. "But that's the way I normally play, go out there and make something happen. The sky's the limit for me. If you don't believe in yourself who will. I have a lot of confidence in my game, myself and what I put into my game.

"We (he and Butler) can be really good," Rose added. "It's not a problem working with him. I know his game and where he wants the ball; it's all about our offense and getting in the open court, letting him post up here and there. I think this year we are gong to play through matchups more. So whoever has the matchup that's who we probably will go through to open things up for the offense."

As for the doubters?

"It's all about proving yourself," said Rose. "If we go out and play things might change. All these experts, it's just their opinion. You can't get mad about their opinions. The way we ended (last season), we did not end things right. This is a new beginning for us and usually in the NBA when have a new beginning and are focused something good comes from it."