Tom Thibodeau doesn’t go out on limbs. There’s little gray or ‘‘what if.’’ So when discussing Derrick Rose on Tuesday, the Bulls coach was very matter-of-fact.

‘‘Derrick will be Derrick very shortly,’’ he said.

But what if he’s not? What if, after surgery and a long rehabilitation for his torn anterior cruciate ligament, this is the new Rose — a 34-percent-shooting, 15-points-a-game guard? What if he’s just another NBA player in a sea of upper-echelon talent who doesn’t quite make the cut into elite?

What if Rose being an MVP, as he was in 2011, is a case of days gone by?

It’s not a scenario that Thibodeau deems realistic.

‘‘You’ve got to remember, the guy has been out 18 months,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s real close. We’ve got to be patient. He’s not making shots he normally makes right now, but we know he’s a great finisher. He has some shots going in and out right now, so we know he’s going to be fine.’’

That’s how it looked after the Bulls’ win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, when Rose tied a career high with six three-pointers and shot a season-best 7-for-16 (44 percent). But on Monday against the Charlotte Bobcats, that guy showed up again, shooting 4-for-13 and looking very average — enough for Bulls fans to suddenly be feeling nervous.

‘‘Whether it’s praise or criticism, [outside concern] really doesn’t matter to me — it’s what we think,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘We knew this was going to be a process that he had to go through. The encouraging thing is, physically, he feels great. People tend to forget how competitive and how great a league this is. When you miss 18 months, that’s a lot of time. It takes a little time to get back and get yourself reacclimated to the intensity, the speed of a game.

‘‘He’s still running the team, making a lot of great decisions, great reads. Each day I see it getting better and better.’’