BOSTON --- Bulls' coach Tom Thibodeau said he's "hopeful" his starting point guard and reigning MVP Derrick Rose will play Friday night against the struggling Boston Celtics at TD Garden.
Rose participated in some drills during Friday morning's shootaround but was still wearing a walking boot after spraining his left big toe in Tuesday night's win over the Timberwolves. Rose sat out Wednesday night's victory over the Wizards but hoped to play against Boston.
"He's feeling a lot better," Thibodeau said. "He'll warm up tonight. We'll see if he can go."
Thibodeau said he wants to make sure Rose doesn't have discomfort resulting from Friday mornings shootaround before deciding whether he will play against a Celtics team that is 4-5 and has yet to defeat a .500 team or better. If Rose does play, he would start and would not have his minutes limited, Thibodeau said.
"We're not going to risk further injury to him," he said. "If he's at risk we're not going to play him. Derrick has always responded well to treatment. He was feeling better yesterday and he's feeling a lot better today."
If Rose does not play, John Lucas III would likely make his second straight start. Lucas III had 25 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in 45 minutes during Wednesday's win over Washington at the United Center. Veteran Mike James was also signed for depth. James practiced at the Berto Center on Thursday to familiarize himself with the playbook after joining the team Wednesday night.
It's also possible backup point guard C.J. Watson could return as soon as tonight. Watson sprained his left elbow diving for a loose ball in a win over the Clippers on Dec. 30. Watson's availability could also factor into Thibodeau's decision to play Rose.
Guard Rip Hamilton (groin) is not expected to play against Boston.
"C.J. is very, very close," Thibodeau said. "Rip did more shooting today and is close but C.J. is closer than Rip."
Because Lucas III had such a big game while replacing Rose, and Watson scored a game-high 33 when he replaced Rose in the starting lineup last season, Thibodeau was jokingly asked if he is the real reason behind the success of Chicago point guards. Thibodeau chuckled at the idea of Rose being a "system" player.
"C.J. is terrific and probably more deserving of more minutes," Thibodeau said. "He's got a tough job because he's backing up Derrick. But he handles it great and whenever C.J. has had extended minutes he has played very, very well for us.
"John handles his role perfectly. He's a high-energy guy who works hard every day and is always prepared. In many ways, he's similar to [Brian Scalabrine]. He could be practicing for two months and not play at all and you could throw him in and he knows exactly what he has to do and he's ready. It's a testament to his professionalism. With both C.J. and John, they are both very good shooters. It allows them to fit in very easily."
If Rose does play, it would make for another potentially memorable matchup with Boston's Rajon Rondo. The Celtics might be struggling, but Rondo has been playing as well as ever. Coach Doc Rivers has been concerned about his team's lack of chemistry and he ran them hard in practice earlier this week because he thought they were out of shape.
Thus far, their four wins have come against bottom dwellers Detroit, Washington (twice) and New Jersey.
"They're fine," Thibodeau said. "Tough schedule early, [Paul] Pierce being hurt, the core of the team is intact. Rondo is a superstar now. They have four star players, and they have a great coach. The adjustments are more with the new guys on the bench. As Pierce gets healthy, with the experience of their team, they will be fine."