"I think there's actually a lot of therapeutic benefit to starting with early minutes when it's safe," Cole said then. "You have to play to play. All these muscle patterns have to kick in. You can do that off the court informally. But there's a lot of benefit to playing.
This is where Rose's rehabilitation has been since Feb. 18, the day Cole and everyone surrounding Rose signed off on him scrimmaging five-on-five at full speed with full contact and full court. Once Rose cleared that step with no setbacks -- a step that wouldn't have occurred if any risk of re-injury remained -- the only hurdle left for Rose was to declare himself physically and mentally ready for game action.
Rose, according to public comments he made in mid-February and what he continues to tell team officials and those close to him, isn't ready yet. Next week will mark the 10-month mark since his surgery.
In other words, Rose remains squarely within his rehabilitation window, although coach Tom Thibodeau said the team is prepared for Rose returning or not this season.
"I trust Derrick implicitly," Thibodeau said. "When he's ready, he'll let us know. He's heeding (team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf's) advice from the beginning. Be patient. Be diligent. Do your work. Concentrate on the rehab. And when he's ready to go, he'll go."
ESPNChicago.com, citing a team source, reported Friday that Rose's doctor has cleared him to play in games but that Rose has told the team he won't play until he can dunk "confidently off his left foot in a game situation." The report didn't specify if that physician was Cole, whom the team has made off-limits to reporters.
Thibodeau said that decision "hasn't been finalized yet" but reiterated the most important voice is Rose's. This jibes consistently with what Rose told reporters Feb. 13 in Boston.
"It's really on me to make that decision when I'm going to play again," Rose said that night. "That's cool that they left it up to me."
That's why Friday's initial report caught Rose off guard, according to two people who spoke to him, because some viewed the story as pressuring him to play.
"He has been cleared to do everything that there is," Thibodeau said. "Before he makes the final step, everyone has to get together and sign off. That hasn't happened yet."
Nevertheless, it stands to reason that because Rose has handled full-court scrimmaging with no setbacks, he already has been cleared for games or that will happen soon. There remains considerable optimism within the organization that Rose will play at some point this season.
"He's making progress," Thibodeau said. "He's getting better. He has come a long way. He's not quite ready yet. But I'm optimistic. Hopefully, it will happen."
Coincidentally, Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio tearing his left ACL. Rubio returned on Dec. 15 but only recently has started to return to form after a slow start that featured back spasms sidelining him. Rubio attributed that injury to his body getting used to his surgically-repaired knee.
This dynamic is why the Bulls are hopeful Rose can return this season. Getting his body adjusted to his surgically-repaired knee -- while on a minutes limit -- before another offseason of rehabilitation work and training camp would be mentally and physically beneficial.
"No one wants to play more than he does," Thibodeau said. "His approach has been very, very good. I just want him to do what he has been doing, which is put everything he has into each and every day with his rehab. He has practiced well. He has to keep doing that. When he's ready, we'll know."