Bulls guards Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton are both game-time decisions for tonight's game against the Detroit Pistons at the United Center. But while Rose is expected to miss his ninth consecutive game with a groin injury, Hamilton might only need medical clearance to face his former team.
Hamilton has missed the last 13 games with a bruised shoulder, but has been practicing without incident the past three days, including full participation in the Bulls' shootaround Friday at the Berto Center.
''Medical clearance first. And when he's pain-free, he goes,'' Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.
Rose is not quite as far along. He is making progress in his rehabilitation, but has not yet been cleared for contact. Rose said he is anxious to return but won't rush it. He's missed 18 games this season because of injuries -- back spasms, turf toe and now the groin.
Asked about his progress in his rehab, Rose said, ''Just pool work. Trying to run. Getting treatment twice a day. And just trying to stay positive."
The battle for him is staying patient. He had only missed six games in his previous three NBA seasons.
"It's coming along. Hopefully, I'll be out there soon,'' Rose said. "It's killing me [to not play]. I'm missing some good games. I'm really taking my injury into [consideration], not trying to rush back. If I come back too early, I could re-injure it. So I'm just taking my time."
After facing the Pistons tonight, the Bulls (41-11) play the Oklahoma City Thunder (39-12) on Sunday afternoon in Oklahoma City in a showdown between the teams with the best records in the NBA. Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook is averaging 24.4 points per game this season, including 29.0 points in his last eight, with games of 45 points (vs. the Timberwolves), 36 (Lakers), 36 (Spurs) and 32 (Trailblazers).
That's the kind of challenge Rose doesn't like to miss.
''It would hurt me not to play that game,'' Rose said. ''It depends on how I feel. If I feel healthy enough to go out there, I'm going to play. If not, I'm not going to play."
Though he is not a doctor, Rose was more upbeat about the prospects of Hamilton playing tonight.
''Rip's been good,'' he said. ''He's been moving around way more than I have. More than likely I think he's going to play tonight. [It's] against his old team, so I think he'll be out there. He's been shooting the ball, getting a lot of treatment, along with me.''