Tom Thibodeau dropped an update on Derrick Rose's injury progress to the local media letting everyone know Rose has been cleared for 'more contact'. Rose had been taking "predictable" contact previously and now is cleared for "regular" contact representing the next step in his recovery.
Iman Shumpert returned nine days after being cleared for regular contact but don't expect the same aggressive timetable for Derrick Rose. The Bulls have previously talked about weeks of regular contact for Rose prior to bringing him back. With the all-star game merely a month away, it seems highly unlikely that they would bring Rose back before then.
Of course, it also looks more and more likely that Rose will be ready for a post all-star return.
How does the rotation change with Rose back?
The Bulls are presently give playing time to four guards. Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, Rip Hamilton, and Marco Belinelli. With Rose coming back, at least one of these guys will get squeeze from the rotation all together and another one will likely see a significant dip in playing time.
The obvious candidate to get squeezed from the rotation is Nate Robinson. I'm curious to see how Kirk Hinrich works in the bench role where more shot creation is frequently required with lesser offensive players around him. That said, initially Kirk deserves to get the call given how much better the team plays with him on the floor than Nate.
The real question becomes whether or not the Bulls limit Kirk Hinrich to PG or try to start finding minutes for him at SG. With a healthy Rose in the lineup, I think it'd be ideal to move Marco Belinelli into the starting lineup and provide some shooting around Derrick Rose. This might also give Kirk/Rip some continuity playing together.
I'd leave Kirk purely in a PG role for this team. The Bulls mentioned his ability to slide over to play the two as something they desired when starting him, but after watching Kirk this season it seems like a big mistake to go in that direction. Kirk has actually done a fairly fantastic job in his minutes this season. The team plays significantly better when he's on the floor despite pedestrian numbers.
However, his game management becomes meaningless next to Derrick Rose who takes over that role. His weaknesses in terms of lack of shooting and low volume play become enhanced in a role where he'll need to space the floor. In effect, Kirk becomes Keith Bogans with better ball handling if he starts playing at the two guard. Both Belinelli and Hamilton are more natural scorers and Jimmy Butler's a more impressive defender.
The lineup questions will likely be eased into as Derrick will probably start with 15 minutes or so a night and gradually increase his activity up until his full role. This should also allow his teammates time to get used to having him back.
How will the Bulls perform with Rose back?
At the start of his second year, Derrick Rose entered the season with a leg injury and lacked explosion and effectiveness. For a brief period many fans wondered if Rose was simply overhyped. As he healed up, we found this was clearly not the case, and he went on to have an excellent season.
I would expect something similar to that with his return from the ACL injury. The Bulls have been cautious with Rose's recovery and have likely forced patience upon him. I suspect they could have gotten Rose back on the court closer to the start of January if they wanted to, but by making sure nothing is rushed, they mitigate the amount of time it takes Rose to get back to his physical peak in games.
Beyond Rose taking time to get back to his physical best, the rest of the team needs to adjust their roles, get used to having a dominant scorer among them, and continue to focus on defense, rebounding, and limiting turnovers. The best thing Chicago can do is to bring Rose into what they're already doing gradually and slowly allow him to retake control of the team as he becomes physically and mentally confident again.