With the buildup and national coverage, the atmosphere surrounding the Bulls first preseason game against Central Division rival Indiana Pacers has the feeling of an Eastern Conference Final affair.
All the commotion is of course for Derrick Rose, who after 526 days after last playing, will make his return. You can excuse coach Tom Thibodeau for his excitement on having his star player back.
“It’s the next moment. That’s the way I look at it.” he said bluntly. “He’s prepared himself, he’s been through a lot, he’s mentally tough, he’s handled adversity well. It’s the next step.
There’s going to be some rust. He’s been out a long time, but each day in practice, it’s been better and better. It’s not only him. It’s his teammates getting used to him and he getting used to his teammates because he plays the game so differently and there’s so much speed involved with him and the only way you can get used to that and being out there, and playing like that. And right now, Joakim hasn’t been out there with him and it’s really important, I think, for all those guys to be out there together, to get their timing down, their spacing, their execution, tie the defense together. There’s a lot that goes into that.”
Kirk Hinrich will play after suffering through back spasms that forced him to sit out two straight practices during the week. Nazr Mohammed will get the start for Joakim Noah, who’s expected to be out the first two preseason games with a sore groin and could be available for the Oct. 12 game on Rio against the Washington Wizards, but Thibodeau would like to see the big man get some more floor time in practice before bringing him back.
“I’m not comfortable right now with him going out there without some practices under his belt,” Thibodeau said. “He’s doing more and more each day, and we’re probably doing a little bit more at the shootaround than we normally would. So he’s going in that and once we get through this stretch right here and get some practices, then we’ll get him out there.”
While Rose's return is great for the Bulls and league, not everyone is too thrilled that he's back to playing.
"I called him this summer to see if he was interested in coaching when Brian Shaw left my staff," joked Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "I had a position for him in case he wanted to retire early and join the coaching ranks, but he declined.
All jokes aside, tonight begins the first step in what the Bulls hope will be a special season and with their most special player ready to get back in gear.