As well as Joakim Noah played en route to winning Defensive Player of the Year and making his second consecutive All-Star Game appearance, as much as an improvement Sixth Man of the Year runner-up Taj Gibson made, as pleasantly surprising D.J. Augustin’s emergence was after his midseason acquisition and even as anticipated the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony in free agency is becoming, looming in the background for the Bulls, once again, is the return of Derrick Rose.

The former league MVP was a limited participant in practices toward the end of the team’s campaign, which concluded in a stunning first-round playoff exit against Washington, after suffering a torn right medial meniscus in November, followed by subsequent season-ending surgery to repair the injury. Rose’s recovery continues at the Berto Center, with the goal of getting back to his old self by July, when he will participate in USA Basketball’s training camp prior to the national team inclusion in the FIBA World Cup.

“He’s really in a good place right now. He continues to train. You probably saw he’s starting to play now one-on-one, two-on-two,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman explained on the day after the Game 5 loss to Washington. “He’ll continue to ramp it up and if everything goes according to plan, which up to this point it has, we’re optimistic that he’ll play with Team USA this summer and have another good summer of work and be ready to go in October.”

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, also a USA Basketball assistant coach, chimed in: “He’s right on schedule. This is the next phase now. The rehab part went well. The non-contact stuff went well. So now this is the next step, which is good.”

Rose has increased the intensity of his daily workouts, according to people with knowledge of the sessions—albeit not against all NBA-level competition, as several of his teammates aren’t in town—and Thibodeau, for one, doesn’t see why the point guard won’t get back to his previous elite level after rehabilitation.