Derrick Rose travels with Bulls for first time this season

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The timetable for Derrick Rose to return to the Bulls hasn’t changed. But his rehabilitation is progressing as expected, which is certainly encouraging.

Rose has been practicing with the team, though not fully just yet.

He still can’t take full contact at this stage, yet the fact that he’s a regular fixture now with the team is a positive sign he’s on track.

Another sign is the fact that Rose traveled with the Bulls for the team’s two-game road trip to Orlando and Miami.

From K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

The symbolic nature of Rose’s progress from left knee surgery couldn’t be ignored on the first day of 2013. Particularly since the youngest most valuable player in league history joined his teammates for the charter flight to Orlando, his first trip this season.

“He’s doing more of practice, but he still can’t take full contact,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “There are several steps he has to go through. This is all part of the plan of bringing him back. But everybody has to be patient.”

Rose’s travel does little to change the timeline most team observers have speculated all along for his return — late February to early March.

The Bulls have managed to maintain with Rose out on the strength of their defense (latest loss to the Bobcats this week aside), and currently sit at fifth in the Eastern Conference standings.

While the timeline for Rose to return remains unchanged, remember that we’ve already had two players this season come back earlier than expected, and essentially do so as a complete surprise: Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitzki.

There are no guarantees of course that Rose will do the same, and the Bulls are in no rush to force him back. But his increased involvement with the team is exciting, if only to remind us that we’re getting that much closer to seeing him back in action.