- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Coach Tom Thibodeau, whose Chicago Bulls have lost seven of their past 10 games, said Wednesday his team can't use the controversy surrounding Derrick Rose's possible return as an excuse.
"Hey, we knew going in, we knew what the circumstances were going to be this year," Thibodeau said. "We had no idea, there was no timetable, there was no doubt where we were saying, 'OK, he's going to be back this date.' It's when he's ready, and we knew that going in.
"We can't allow (his possible return) to be an excuse for us not getting the job done. We got to get the job done. We've shown that we're capable and obviously capable of playing better than we have been recently."
The Bulls opened up a three-game homestand Tuesday with a 101-98 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were playing without the injured Kyrie Irving. The Bulls are 4-8 in February with one game remaining, just the second losing month in Thibodeau's two and a half seasons as head coach. And they are 2-5 since Rose said in an interview with USA Today that he was "far away" from returning from May knee surgery that has kept him out all season.
Those comments -- along with those from Rose's brother and manager Reggie Rose, who said the Bulls' inactivity at the trade deadline would be a "big factor" in his decision to return -- have created uncertainty about whether Rose will return this season.
Although Thibodeau has maintained his team has not been distracted by Rose's presence at practices since the first of the year, he said it has been a challenge.
"Every day you're faced with different things that can distract you if you allow it to," Thibodeau said. "So you have to guard against that constantly. Sometimes it's injuries, sometimes it's schedule, Taj (Gibson) out, Kirk (Hinrich) out, whatever it might be. A lot of games on the road, back to backs, early start, late start, whatever it is and you got to guard against all that stuff."
After having an extended conversation with Rose after practice on Wednesday, Thibodeau was jokingly asked if they were talking about Rose playing Thursday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
"Nope, just basketball," Thibodeau said.
Rose has participated in several 5-on-5 drills since the All-Star break and is doing everything his teammates are doing in practice.
"He sees how he's improving," Thibodeau said. "As I've said all along, we all have to understand the intensity of an NBA game is totally different than practice. So he's preparing himself for that and he'll know when he's ready and we'll know he's ready. So we just got to be patient."
Asked if Rose's rehab was more mental than physical at this point, Thibodeau said:
"The thing is, there's physical, there's mental, there's both. He's handled himself great. And as I said, we'll know when he's ready. We just want him to keep making his improvements and when it's time, he'll come back."
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