- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
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It might be only a preseason game Saturday in Indianapolis, but Rose's return to the court is turning a normally shoulder-shrugging occasion into a must-see event, and not just in Chicago. The NBA Network will show the game live around the country.
Perhaps the only one not making a big deal about his return is Rose.
"It's going to be exciting, man, but at the same time, just take it as a regular game and try and go out there and win," said Rose, who sat out last season recovering from knee surgery. "But for us, it's our time to tune things up, get our offense going, moving the ball, and defensively I think we're great."
Forget the notion that Rose will use the preseason to slowly get his game back to full speed.
"I'm just going to play the same way that I normally do," he said. "There's no point in holding back. I think that we go as I go, and me being aggressive gets people open and that's how I'm going to play."
Coach Tom Thibodeau said he will play everyone in six-to-eight-minute spurts, including the starters. Rose figures to see anywhere from 12-24 minutes of floor time.
Certainly the coach would be excited for some of the most anticipated 12-24 minutes in recent team history, but Thibodeau also downplayed Rose's return.
"My expectation is I'm worried about the whole team," Thibodeau said. "So it's not only how he is, it's how he functions with the team and how the team functions with him. You're looking at a lot of different things, your first unit, your bench unit, some of the free agents that are here and have done a good job working to this point.
"We look at the entire month as our training camp. It's a good chance to measure ourselves against somebody else. That will be good for us."
There really is no denying, though, that Rose's return is actually what is best for everybody in the organization. While his decision to stay away last season rubbed some fans the wrong way, the team is fairly universal with the concept that it is in a better place now.
"We're all kind of excited to have a game," guard Kirk Hinrich said. "After four or five days of pounding on each other, it's always fun to have a game. At the same time, we have to focus fully on what we're doing, try to execute. Just because there's people in the stands, we're playing against another team, we've got to kind of fight the urge to go crazy and be solid. But yeah, we're excited to see Derrick, obviously out there for the first time, and get out there with him, so it'll be a good test."
Despite going 526 days between NBA games, Rose never lost his businesslike approach.
"I'm prepared," Rose said Friday. "Obviously if I wasn't in here working or I was just B.S.-ing around, I would be scared then, but right now I feel like I'm prepared and I haven't missed a step."
Rose continues to say that he has developed a greater sense of confidence in the time he has been away, with most of that due to the fact that he feels he has never been more prepared than he is now.
"[The NBA] is the biggest stage that I'll probably play on in my whole career, so you think I'm going to come out here and be unprepared for that?" Rose said. "I have to be prepared just knowing that I want to leave a great legacy."
While most eyes will focus on how the team adjusts to Rose in his return, Rose is looking at Saturday's game as exactly the opposite.
"For me, it's about getting back into the rhythm of them," he said. "They've been playing since last year. Last year, they learned how to win games without me being on the court. It's me adjusting to them, learning their tendencies over again, running the plays hard so that everybody is on the same page. That's my job, to control the floor and see how much I can control the game with the ball in my hands."
While the consensus seems to be that Rose's shooting touch has improved since he last played in a game, Thibodeau believes that a full season on the bench as an observer will help Rose improve in all aspects.
"I think he's put a lot of work into it, but he always does," Thibodeau said. "I think that will be his mark as he moves forward. Each year he's gotten better. I think experience has taught him a lot. He's a student of the game. He's grown in a lot of areas just based on the three years that I've been here. Just watching each year, even though he didn't play last year, I thought he grew a lot. He had to show a lot of mental toughness through that adversity. And he did that."
There figures to be rust at times in the preseason as Rose reacquaints himself with game situations, but Thibodeau preferred to look at the positive of that aspect as well.
"Once [Rose] gets out there and he plays, I think our starters have been together for a while, they've seen a lot, they know how they're going to attack and cover for each other," Thibodeau said. "They know how to stay tied together, and they've shown good leadership. I'm expecting them to play well."
Even though it is his birthday, Rose expects the final night before his return to the court to be a mellow one.
"I get time to rest," Rose said. "I was with my son all last night and now go on the road, first time on the road with this team, and we probably have dinner with the team. After that, get some sleep. Nothing exciting, man. I live a boring life."
It's about to get a little more interesting.
2hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann