Rose expected to start against Celtics Friday


Jan 13

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The Bulls hit the quarter pole of this reduced NBA season Friday night in Boston for the nationally televised ESPN game. And they go into the game with the quickly aging Celtics with the best record in the Eastern Conference by a game and a half.

Which means Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau may be on the way to coaching the All-Star game. So I was wondering if that means John Lucas III could start for the Eastern Conference.

No, I guess it doesn’t work that way, and it seems likely Derrick Rose will return from his one game sprained toe absence to play against the Celtics Friday.

Rose still was wearing a walking boot as a precaution at the team’s morning shootaround. But Thibodeau said he was “hopeful” he would play while teammates said Rose was saying he planned to play Friday night.

Still, Thibodeau never much likes to give away any information to the opposition, especially his former team in Boston, though suspicions he asked for a Secret Service detail to cordon off the arena for 10 blocks proved unfounded.

“He’s feeling a lot better. He’ll warm up tonight and we’ll see if he can go,” said Thibodeau. “If he doesn’t have much discomfort from this morning and he feels ready to go.”

Asked whether Rose would start, Thibodeau did pause for dramatic effect.

“That’s a good question,” Thibodeau joked, staring up at the ceiling. “If he can play, he’s starting.”

Thibodeau added C.J. Watson is “very close” to playing, probably early next week. While Richard Hamilton with his groin injury has been shooting at practice, but is not as close to playing as Watson. Which suggests to me Hamilton won’t play at least until the Cleveland/Charlotte back to back late next week.

“Most guys in the league are hurting in some way,” Thibodeau said. “We’re not going to risk further injury to him (Rose). If he’s at risk, certainly we would not play him. He’s always responded well to treatment. He was feeling better yesterday and he’s feeling a lot better today.”

The sprained toe is an injury Rose has had before and played with it. So team doctors knows he’s familiar with it and knows whether he can play on it. Thibodeau also said there would be no time limitations on Rose’s play.

Thibodeau also was asked about the ongoing issues — though he sees them as only media inspired — of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer not playing in the fourth quarter in about half the games thus far.

Thibodeau was direct when asked if he’d ever change the starting lineup.

“No!” he said.

“I think it’s one of our strengths,” he said. “We have quality bigs up front. Where we are in our schedule it’s hard to play big guys extended minutes. The fact we have great depth allows us to rotate all four of those guys and they’ve all done a good job for us.

“We’re going to do what’s best for the team for winning,” Thibodeau said. “Most times they (Noah and Boozer in the fourth quarter) are going to be out there. There are certain situations if teams are small and have shooting on the floor sometimes you have to change. Most of the time they are going to be out there.”

Asked if he’s had to talk with Noah, Thibodeau seemed a bit exasperated.

“Noah’s fine,” he said sharply. “His rebounding is fine. He’s been plagued with some foul trouble. He’ll be fine.

“I have a lot of confidence in (Taj Gibson and Omer Asik as well),” Thibodeau said. “You can make the case they are all starters. All four guys, we need them and we count on them.”

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