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Bulls take cautious approach to preseason injuries

Priority remains full health for Rose, Gibson

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By Sam Smith | 10.14.2015 | 9:40 a.m.

You can imagine that Derrick Rose is more weary of this than anyone.

But here we go again with the latest Rose series of injury/return updates, which Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, taking the explanation baton from predecessor Tom Thibodeau, Tuesday put in perspective after Bulls practice.

“It’s a long season, 82 games, and, hopefully, playoffs,” Hoiberg observed in showing how quickly he has adjusted to the difference between the college and pro schedules. “You want to have Derrick there for the majority of that. We will take a cautious approach with it. But if he’s ready, he feels good, and our trainers and doctors feel good, then we’ll throw him out there.’’

For now, Hoiberg said it means Rose following orbital fracture surgery last week won’t play in any of the four remaining preseason games and it still remains uncertain whether Rose will be ready for the Oct. 27 opening game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the United Center.

“They (team doctors) still want him to be a little bit careful with the swelling, make sure that his vision is back to where it’s supposed to be, to where it was before he got hit, before they want him to get anything going on with his blood pressure spiking is how I understand it,” said Hoiberg. “So he’s probably at least a week away from (running in practice), to where he’s able to get out and work up a sweat. And then, hopefully, it’s full go from there to where we can get him out into some contact drills, get him back out there running our offense, and hopefully get him ready to play. I think it’s still yet to be determined if we’re going to have him for the opener. But the good news is he’s progressing, he’s getting better. His vision is getting better, and hopefully we’ll get him back soon.’’

Hoiberg has made it clear in sitting out Pau Gasol the first two preseason games, Joakim Noah two games after he bruised his knee last week and now it looks like Tony Snell for a few games after an ankle sprain in Monday’s loss to New Orleans that he is viewing this season more as an evolution than a November finished product.

So if Rose is ready to play Nov. 1 instead of Oct. 27, well, Hoiberg says the priority remains full health over full court.

It doesn’t mean Rose won’t be ready for the opener. But if he doesn’t begin working out with teammates until later next week, would it look like an unnecessary rush once again to start that first game? After all, Rose did play the opener last season. He got hurt in the second game, the home opener against Cleveland, and then missed eight of the next 11 games. The Bulls were 8-5 in that period, and this season seem even better prepared to sustain with more depth than last season.

“We’ve got to make sure (he’s ready),” said Hoiberg. “He really hasn’t done anything and that will be a good two or three weeks where he has total inactivity. So just to throw him back out there going 100 percent with his speed and everything, you just don’t want to take any risks, chances, where it could be a lingering issue.”

Rose was hurt two weeks ago in the first day of preseason practice, Sept. 29. He required surgery for the orbital bone below his eye. The surgery was without complications, but there has been swelling, which is not unusual. Rose will need to play initially with a mask to guard the affected area. The Bulls were hopeful Rose could get a mask fitting early this week, but with swelling in the area that has been postponed.

Still, Hoiberg said the reports of progress have been positive. Yes, pleas for patience regarding Rose has, at times, tried the patience of fans. Still, Rose, by all accounts, had a strong summer of workouts and came into training camp in good shape. The injury is to his eye area and not involving his knees, which have troubled him for almost four years. Much of that seems past for now. So the Bulls are encouraged about what they have seen with Rose. It’s not about taking a risk at this early point.

Similarly, the Bulls have kept Taj Gibson out in the 2-2 preseason start. Gibson had ankle surgery in early June. But, again, the Bulls have held back Gibson to avoid any complications. It seems the same path being followed with Mike Dunleavy after back surgery before training camp. Dunleavy declined to put any return date on his recovery.

Rose did start to get back with the team. Rose was at Monday’s game against the Pelicans and Hoiberg said Rose shot around some on the floor without contact in Tuesday’s practice.

Hoiberg said Gibson and Noah participated in Tuesday’s practice and could play Wednesday in the home game against the Detroit Pistons. After Wednesday, the Bulls won’t play again until Monday in Charlotte.

“Derrick actually took a couple free throws today, so that was good to see him do that,” said Hoiberg. “Tony’s got some swelling in his ankle. I think they kind of labeled it as a mild sprain. So, hopefully, he won’t miss much time. Going to figure out overnight (if Noah or Pau Gasol will start at center Wednesday). We played a couple of different lineups in practice today. We’ll go back and watch film on it and see what we think.

“I think they might wait for that (eye) swelling to go down a little more before they fit him,” Hoiberg added about Rose regarding his mask.

One of the big questions coming into the season was the starting lineup, which has mostly been overlooked with, alas, the injuries to Rose, Dunleavy, Gibson, Noah and now Snell.

So Gasol and Noah have alternated starting with Nikola Mirotic.

“They’ve been good,” Hoiberg said of Gasol starting with Mirotic. “That’s two games in a row we’ve gotten off to very good starts with those two guys on the floor together. Then Pau and Bobby, I thought, played well together (Monday). There are a lot of combinations. You still haven’t seen Jo and Pau out there together and obviously Taj; so we’ll get a good opportunity these next few games to continue to experiment.

With Snell likely out, Doug McDermott probably will get his first start of the preseason.

McDermott is averaging a team best 17.8 points per game in the preseason. He’s also shooting 45 percent on threes in about 31 minutes per game. The Bulls will continue to watch the progress of rookie Bobby Portis, who is opening eyes around the NBA already, averaging 12.5 points and 12.3 rebounds in about 26 minutes per game.

While those players have excelled—and it’s been incumbent upon them to show something special to break into the rotation—it’s been an uncertain preseason for Jimmy Butler. Though the young veteran has been concentrating on helping develop Hoiberg’s more open and flowing system of play. As a result, Butler is averaging 10.5 points in about 24 minutes while shooting 30 percent overall, 29 percent on threes and under 70 percent on free throws.

“Just got to continue to take the right shots,” said Butler. “Keep taking the shots; they’ll fall. Keep getting to the paint. More than anything, I have to continue to make the right play, get the ball to the open guy. The offense we have it’s so spread there’s a lot of space. It will happen. I’m not worried about scoring the ball at all. Everybody is confident in our offense; that’s for sure. They know their strengths and go to it. We share the ball extremely well. We rebound the ball extremely well. The only thing is we let down on our defense at times. We recklessly foul; they got a lot of free throws (Monday). I like the way we are moving. Now just get this defense thing under way.”

The next act is Wednesday in the United Center.