Derrick Rose makes his 2015-16 NBA debut Friday in Lincoln, Nebraska.
It’s never quite what you expect with Rose and the Bulls.
“I’m excited,” said Rose after Bulls practice Friday morning. “I don’t know how I’m going to play. But I’m just happy to be running around out there and just getting a groove for the game. I’m playing tonight. I don’t know the minutes. But I should be out there for a few minutes just to get a feel for the game and just to get used to the physicality and the NBA game.”
It’s just over three weeks since Rose had orbital eye surgery after taking an inadvertent elbow from Taj Gibson during the Bulls first training camp practice. That Rose will play Friday is an encouraging indication that he could play in Tuesday’s opening night game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the United Center.
“Every day my eye is improving,” said Rose. “For Tuesday, we’ll see how tonight goes. Everything I need to work on, it gives me a couple days to really work on it so I’m prepared for Tuesday’s game.”
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg remained cautious, if optimistic, with Rose playing after the team previously said Rose likely would miss all the preseason games.
The Bulls are 3-4 in preseason and host the Dallas Mavericks Friday in what is considered a home game for the Bulls. It is the third time since 1988 the Bulls are playing a preseason game in Lincoln. Because it is a Bulls “home” game, Bulls staff with the Luvabulls dancers and Benny the Bull will perform.
“Derrick is going to give it a go tonight,” said Hoiberg. “The plan going into is to give him a couple of four or five-minute stretches. I’ll bring him off the bench to start and then maybe put him in with the starting unit in the third quarter and give him a couple short stints to try to get him out there and get a little rhythm going. He’s going to be rusty. There’s no doubt about it. But it’s all part of the process to get him ready for the regular season.
“I wanted him to play with different combinations,” explained Hoiberg about the initial reserve role. “I talked to him about it. He seems to be very comfortable with the plan. He’ll get some reps out there with Jo (Noah) and Taj (Gibson), probably, in that first stint and then with Pau (Gasol) and Niko (Mirotic) in that second stint. He went almost the entire practice (Thursday). That was a good sign. The big thing was we wanted to see how he felt this morning and he didn’t have any setbacks.
“If he’s comfortable playing, that’s the big thing,” said Hoiberg. “If he was comfortable going out there we were going to play him. Talking to the trainers and doctors about it, they felt good about getting him out there. That was the big thing to make sure he was comfortable about there and he can give 100 percent. If he’s going to go out there and play 50, 75 percent, it wouldn’t be good. We’ll see how he does out there and make that determination (about playing next Tuesday) in the next few days.
“It’s a great first step to get Derrick out there,” said Hoiberg. “The big thing we’ve kind of had all along ever since he had the injury was to try to get him ready and see if we could get him prepared to play in the opener. This obviously is a very important step in that. For him, the big thing is to go out there and play with a rhythm, push the ball up the floor. The big thing is to get the pace, get us going up the floor. We should be a lot faster out there with Derrick with the ball in his hands.”
Hoiberg had talked after practice Thursday about holding Rose back if he was experiencing double vision, which Rose said he is to some extent. But Hoiberg said Rose took some blows in practice and didn’t flinch.
“The only one I noticed yesterday was when the ball went right through his hands and hit him in the forehead,” Hoiberg said about one play. “But he was wearing a mask so we’re in good shape. He also got hit in the face yesterday, so that was good as well. He got popped and he was able to fight through it. That was a great sign. It was good for him to take that first blow to the face and know he’s going to be OK. It’s great in a game setting (Friday) to get him out there and playing with different combinations, different lineups. It’s probably going to be seven to 10 minutes of game action. But I still think it’s important to get him out there. I told him, ‘I don’t care how you play. It’s just great for you to get out there.’ He obviously wants to go out and play well. But the big thing is to get the process, getting the ball rolling of getting out on the floor in a game-type setting.”
Added Rose: “I’m only probably going to play a couple minutes here and there; while I’m out there just ball out.”