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Tom Thibodeau’s prognosis for Derrick Rose: He’s very close

Bulls center Joakim Noah drives basket while being guarded by Celtics forward Paul Pierce first quarter. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Bulls center Joakim Noah drives to the basket while being guarded by Celtics forward Paul Pierce in the first quarter. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 18, 2012 8:22AM

Derrick Rose missed his fourth consecutive game with back spasms but looked as mobile as he has in several days while warming up before the game Thursday night against the Celtics.

“We want him to be pain-free,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s very close.”

Rose shot free throws at the Berto Center during the morning shootaround but was unable to run.

“I know that it’s going to be sore a little bit, but I know that I don’t want to deal with it during the games where it gets tight and it gets irritated,” Rose said. “I’m going to come back when I’m ready.”

Rose said he wasn’t in any pain after the shootaround and had two treatment sessions scheduled --- one at the Berto Center after the shootaround and another when he arrived at the United Center.

He also said that his back tends to spasm during activity only.

“If I’m just sitting around, I don’t really feel it like that, but when I’m out there doing something, that’s when it usually bothers me,” Rose said.

Rose has been seeing a back specialist for hourlong sessions that he vaguely described as stretching routines.

“He went through his workout, didn’t have any problems, is feeling a lot better, but we’re going to wait and see how it goes tomorrow,” Thibodeau said.

Rose also said he’s learning that some injuries he can play with, while it’s better to rest others.

“The back is totally different; with an ankle, you can kind of play through that,” he said. “As a guard, you’re used to twisting your ankle. It’s the second time in my life dealing with this, and it’s quite different.’’

Sitting out hasn’t gotten any easier.

“It’s killing me right now,” Rose said. “Like I said, I’m definitely missing these games — especially these big games — playing against Boston and all the other teams that I didn’t get a chance to play against this year. It’s definitely hurting. But I’m just trying to stay focused, get my head right and just trying to get better.”

Rip’s return

Rip Hamilton’s bruised thigh is improving, and he has been upgraded to day-to-day, Thibodeau said. Hamilton has missed 10 games with a thigh injury and 20 overall.

“He’s doing his workouts; he feels a lot better,” Thibodeau said. “He’s making good progress.”

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