By Jean-Paul Salamanca ( | First Posted: Jan 23, 2013 07:46 AM EST

Derrick Rose has been cleared to take on more contact in practice; could the Chicago Bulls star's return to NBA action be close at hand? (Photo : Reuters)

It may be just a matter of time now until Derrick Rose's return occurs.

According to Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, Rose has been cleared to take part in full contact practice scrimmages, marking perhaps one of the final stages of his recovery.

On Monday, Thibodeau said that the Bulls superstar guard was "very close" to engaging in full contact practice. On Tuesday, he said, the next phase of Rose's recovery was underway-taking more contact in practice.

"He did a little bit more," Thibodeau said afterward. "He's taking on some contact. He's doing fine. He's been cleared for more contact so we went to the next step today."

But don't rejoice just yet, Rose fans: there still isn't a date set for Rose's return, and the franchise is still handling their centerpiece star with kid gloves as far as getting him back to playing shape.

"It's going to be a while," Thibodeau told reporters. "It's the next step in his rehab. Everyone has to be patient. He's doing fine. He's playing more, practicing more. We want him to concentrate on his rehab. We want the team to continue concentrating on improvement and the next opponent. Nothing has changed."

Thus far, the contact that Rose has been engaging in has been labeled as "predictable contact," or contact that occurs when engaging in planned or set drills. Regular contact will be more akin to regular game play, which is a major step forward in the recovery of the left ACL that Rose tore last April during the playoffs.

Thibodeau says that the team will be carefully monitoring Rose's left knee and gauging his responses during practice.

Bulls teammate Richard "Rip" Hamilton is fine with giving Rose all the time he needs.

"We know it's going to take time," Hamilton said. "We allow Derrick just to do him. It was good to see him on the floor moving around, getting a little contact. But we want him to take his time.

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