SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- If the Kings move to Seattle and Wednesday indeed marked the Bulls' final trip to this state capital, Tom Thibodeau and Derrick Rose made the visit a memorable one.
No, Rose didn't make his season debut after offseason knee surgery in the Bulls' season-worst 121-79 loss at Sleep Train Arena. But one day after Rose gave his latest health and mental state update, Thibodeau defended Rose's quiet approach throughout his rehabilitation process as directly and emphatically as the coach has all season.
"We knew that this was going to be a long process," Thibodeau said. "We know that everyone has to be patient and allow Derrick to work through it. He's been honest and truthful all the way along.
"Part of this is he's working through it. Another part of it is the type of guy that he is. He wants the focus to be on the guys who are out there playing now. When he's active again, he's going to give you (reporters) access just like he did before. As I said from the beginning, we have to trust him. I trust him implicitly. He's done a great job with his rehab."
With Tuesday marking the 10-month anniversary since doctors surgically repaired his left anterior cruciate ligament, the clamor from outside forces for Rose's return has grown louder and the impatience has intensified. The few times Rose has spoken, he has come across as the calm and unflustered one refusing to let the frenzy surrounding him influence his decision.
"That's Derrick," Thibodeau said. "He's done his part great. He's heeded (Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf's) advice from the beginning. No one wants to play more than this kid."
Reinsdorf made clear last offseason that Rose should decide when he's ready to play, a stance he reiterated to the team website Tuesday.
"He's not going to be influenced by anything outside," Thibodeau said of the media speculation surrounding Rose. "He knows exactly what he has to do. And he's done that. And this is all part of it. All the things that he can control, he's controlled."
With 18 games remaining, Thibodeau reiterated there is no cutoff date for Rose's return. For the first time, he even OK'd an unlikely scenario -- that Rose could make his debut in the playoffs even if he misses all 82 regular-season games.
"Whenever he feels comfortable, we're bringing him back," Thibodeau said.
The Bulls again were down more than Rose, with Kirk Hinrich out for the fifth straight game, Taj Gibson for the eighth straight and Richard Hamilton -- still not with the team -- for the seventh straight.
Hinrich ditched the walking boot to protect his right foot, looked improved during individual pregame shooting and said Friday's game at Golden State is a possibility. Gibson continues to wear a brace protecting the sprained MCL in his left knee and said his original diagnosis called for him to miss two to four weeks.
"Every time we get close, it's your hamstrings or different things tend to bother you," Gibson said. "It's all about getting strength. I'm out there going hard every day. Once you go hard, it's going to be a setback. I was running sprints (Tuesday), and (Wednesday) morning, it's sore. That's my problem. I've been going hard because I want to get back out there bad.
"I have to listen to the training staff. I was going extremely hard (Tuesday). I tried to do every drill. And it still hurts, so they shut me down. I'm trying to push through, and hopefully I'll be back soon."
The Bulls had mixed reactions to the Kings' potential move. Seattle native Nate Robinson would love the change, while broadcaster Bill Wennington, who spent two seasons playing in Sacramento, talked about the great fan support through the years.
So did Thibodeau.
"It's a great basketball city, and I hope it's not (the last trip) because the support they've given their team over the years was unbelievable," he said. "I've always enjoyed coming here."
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