- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose is looking forward to playing in his first NBA game in almost a year and a half on Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers and is hoping it marks the start of a clean slate for him in his career.
"It is a fresh start," Rose said after Thursday's practice. "It gives me really a fresh start to go out there and prove myself again. This is the biggest stage you can play on as a player and probably the biggest stage I've ever played on in my life. So I'm preparing myself for it. And me getting past this, I think it's just going to help my confidence and help me become better as a pro and as a veteran for my team."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said the plan for Saturday's preseason opener is to start Rose off in six- to eight-minute spurts with the rest of the starters.
"We'll see how much he can handle," Thibodeau said. "But he's handled everything thus far. Basically scrimmaging three quarters -- three 12-minute quarters -- so he's getting used to that in addition to the rest of the practice, so we'll try to give him the type of workload that he'll be facing."
Rose is just happy to be back on the floor and into a rhythm with his teammates.
"Just trying not to be too anxious and just trying to win that game," he said. "Trying to take them one game at a time. Try to get better every practice leading up to the game. And just trying to get my wind back."
Thibodeau wants to ease Rose back into the lineup as much as he can and is anxious to see how his star fares against the Pacers.
"It's the next step," Thibodeau said. "We've had an opportunity to watch him for a while. We've done a lot of things in practice to make it gamelike, as close as we can in terms of the intensity and speed of a practice. I think we have a pretty good feel for that, but it's not only Derrick and that's what we have to be careful of. It's how he functions with the rest of the team and how the rest of the team functions with him."
Thibodeau wants to be extremely cautious in how the Bulls handle Rose's return.
"You're talking about somebody who's been out close to 17 months," Thibodeau said. "There's some rust, but each day it's gotten significantly better. He's gotten more comfortable, his timing's back, but there will be some ups and downs as he gets used to playing. There's nothing that you could do that could actually make it like a game. I think you get to the preseason and you go up a level, but then when the regular season comes it will be at a higher level.
"So he's just taking it day by day, doing all the right things, and we don't want him to skip any steps. We don't want the team to skip any steps. So the challenge is for everyone to be ready."
Speaking of being ready, Rose is ready to hear from his mother, Brenda, a day after he talked about how he is so aggressive on the floor he would run anyone over, even his mom.
Rose knows the call will be "interesting" after that quote generated national headlines.
"I got a call late last night [from her], but I was knocked out," Rose said. "She was probably up watching the news so I don't know how the conversation's going to go today, but it should be interesting."
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