"Predictable contact'' in practice for Derrick Rose is basically the equivalent of an NFL quarterback wearing the red jersey in practice - it's more look, but don't touch.
Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler discussed Rose's presence in practice this week, with the MVP point guard continuing to take steps in his return from a surgically-repaired torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
"We definitely don't want to get him hurt again, so if he's like going to the cup, let him go,'' Butler said, following the Wednesday afternoon shootaround. "Open J, contest it, but don't let him come down any wrong way. Playing smart basketball at the same time. That goes for anybody - don't undercut anybody, you know. Things that basketball players know to do with their teammates. As far as he's concerned, he continues to go hard, that's for sure.''
Butler admitted to being amazed at the fact that Rose is just back on the court after a May surgery, let alone seeing small signs that the explosiveness is coming back.
"Yeah, I mean everything,'' Butler said. "It's just great to see him out there jumping and shooting jumpshots, moving the way he does. I mean who knows, if he comes back and has a start like [Vikings running back] Adrian Peterson did. Man, that's crazy.''
One good sign? The fact that Rose has enough explosiveness in the knee to start dunking again.
"I see a few flushed here and there, nothing over the top,'' Butler said. "He still has it in him, that's for sure.''
The next step for Rose will be all-out contact in a full practice, and he's getting closer to that part of the rehab.
"You can tell, but he's a great player, a great leader, so he doesn't really show too often, but you know that he wants to be out there with us, be out there competing, helping us get these wins,'' Butler added. "You ask him about it and he's like, 'Man, I'm so ready.' But who knows.''
What the Bulls do know is they blew a 27-point, third-quarter lead to Milwaukee last time they played, and there can't be a repeat performance of that tonight at the United Center.
Three keys to tonight's game with the Bucks:
1. Nate Dogg! - According to head coach Tom Thibodeau, Kirk Hinrich did not workout with the team for a second-consecutive day on Wednesday, so despite being called a "game-time decision'' by Thibodeau, could be out. That means Nate Robinson has to guide the offense. Considering the roll the Bulls bigs have been on, it will be up to Robinson to feed them early and often, and keep that roll going.
2. Let it Rip - In both previous games against Milwaukee this season, the formula was simple against their smaller backcourt: Post-up Richard Hamilton. Expect the same game-plan tonight, until the Bucks can show they can stop it.
3. Remember the 27 - The Bulls players admittedly have a bitter taste in their mouths from the November home loss to the Bucks, especially after blowing a 27-point lead. Thibodeau didn't have to remind them of that loss.
"I think we all remember it,'' guard/forward Jimmy Butler said. "He doesn't have to remind us. We know what we did wrong that game, so we know what we have to do when we go out there tonight. We all talk about it, not letting it happen, and it definitely happened that game, so we know how to prevent it.''