“I got confidence in my (surgically repaired left) knee,” Rose said. “There's no testing anymore. It's going out there and playing hard and attacking.”
By all accounts, that's what the former league most valuable player did in the first session Saturday morning. (Head coach Tom) Thibodeau is devoting the evening sessions on both Saturday and Sunday to film work, shooting and walk-through points of emphasis. Rose said he plans to not miss a practice.
“He attacked all day, in fact from the start,” Thibodeau said. “He made that clear.”
The first practice of training camp isn't an NBA regular-season game. A month of preseason has to be endured before Rose tries to prove he can regain his elite status. And Thibodeau said double-teaming has yet to be introduced, a critical hurdle since Rose pointed to not being able to overcome those as a big reason for his absence last season.
But from joking about enjoying Thibodeau yelling at him to nonchalantly brushing off several hard fouls he absorbed, it's clear Rose is in a different place — mentally and physically — than his practices last season.
“I feel back,” Rose said. “I'm not worried about anything. I'm reacting when I'm out there. I'm just trying to win every scrimmage and just trying to push everybody to be better.”
Rose practiced last year. He noted that on Saturday he was taking hard fouls, getting up and going to the line like it was nothing. So that's good. But in general, this isn't a transformative step it seems to be. He was practicing from February on last year when he wound up missing every game after being cleared by team doctors in February.
The next big step for Rose comes in one week's time, as next Saturday the Bulls play the Pacers in what will be the first minutes of regulated full-contact NBA action Rose has seen in nearly 18 months. Rose tore his ACL in the first round of the playoffs in April of 2012 and has struggled to return since then, citing the severity and traumatic experience the injury detailed.
Rose has remained adamant that he plans on returning not as the same player he was when he went down, but a better one. He's focused on improving his range and explosiveness, and has also talked about putting more into his body to save on the wear and tear of the regular season. Fans and team personnel will likely remain concerned until Rose gets through first a full game, then a full season, but these first steps have to be taken and so far, so good.