NEW YORK (AP) -- The Chicago Bulls were without five key players Thursday against the Brooklyn Nets, though coach Tom Thibodeau provided optimistic reports on Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson.
Thibodeau said Rose did everything during the morning shootaround and was getting closer to returning from left knee surgery. Gibson injured his left knee Tuesday at Washington, but Thibodeau said an MRI exam showed it was only a slight sprain and said the forward's status was day to day.
Joakim Noah (right foot), Richard Hamilton (lower back) and Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain) also were sidelined Thursday night.
Rose has been cleared to return for some time after tearing his knee in last year's playoff opener and has been called close before. Thibodeau said the point guard will know when he is ready to play.
"He feels a lot better," Thibodeau said. "He's still not there and I think you guys who've seen him play, his skill set is, it's power and speed, stop-go, change of direction, so he has to make sure he's completely comfortable with that, and he's close but he's not quite there yet."
The Bulls are so short-handed that they've been unable to scrimmage, limiting Rose's ability to practice at game speed. But Thibodeau said Rose has looked better and more comfortable and didn't rule out the former MVP returning sometime before the end of the regular season.
"It's on him and only he knows, so we have to trust him and I've said many times, I trust him implicitly and he'll know when he's ready," Thibodeau said. "And when he is, he'll go."
Gibson missed 10 games recently with a sprained knee ligament and said the pain felt similar when he was hurt while moving laterally during the loss to the Wizards. Thibodeau said the exam showed the injury was "basically the same, but it's not as bad as the original."
For the Nets, Joe Johnson was back in the starting lineup after missing five games with a sore left heel.
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