Bulls undefeated after first practice


Sep 28

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The Bulls concluded their first practice of the 2010-11 season just after 1 p.m. Tuesday. After coach Tom Thibodeau, Carlos Boozer and Derrick Rose talked with reporters, the best I was able to gather was everyone was great.

Reporters don’t get to watch the drills or scrimmaging, but we were allowed in to see the post practice stretching. I thought the players looked very flexible.

Actually, you don’t learn much from training camp, and there’s less with a team like the Bulls with perhaps one position to contest, shooting guard. There are only five free agents in, likely competing for two spots, probably one forward between Brian Scalabrine and Chris Richard, and one guard/wing from among John Lucas, Kyle Weaver and Roger Powell.

What you begin to learn is who these people are, and it is a new experience for everyone, as Boozer noted.

“He’s organized,” Boozer said of Thibodeau, who officially coached his first practice ever as an NBA coach.

I asked Thibodeau if he got a signed ball like they give in those historic firsts. He looked at me somewhat quizzically.

“He studies the game,” said Boozer. “He knows the game through and through. He’s very intense. He’s into it. He’s out there talking to us, a teacher. It’s exciting for all of us. We all come from different places. A couple of guys were here from last year, but they were coached by someone else (I think Vinny’s name can be mentioned, but I’m not sure). So we’re getting used to our (new) system all together. We’re not running the Bulls system from past years. It’s exciting to all be taught at the same time.”

After a three and a half hour practice, it’s not always as much fun as you might think to answer questions you basically got posed to you for an hour the day before at media day. So when Boozer got the “how long to develop together” one for the 12th time in less than 24 hours he pretty much went into that Jay Cutler mode where you look everywhere and hope there’s something else to see.

I think I also stopped listening at the fifth mention of being on the same page.

The players said they had a walk though drill Monday night, but I think it was cliché school.

Thibodeau had a reputation during his long assistant career as a closed, cold type, though I’m not quite sure how that came about since the coaches he worked for, like Jeff Van Gundy and Doc Rivers, didn’t allow assistants to speak with reporters.

I’ve always found him personable and good for a laugh, at least when I passed him notes. No, seriously, I’d run into him in the off seasons and found him even more engaging than Lawrence Frank.

We know he’s a workaholic type and organized and efficient in the mold of a Scott Skiles. At least now, my sense is he’s one of those coaches who wants to praise his players.

He answered a question about leadership by mentioning Rose and Boozer, and then quickly adding Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. He said Rose’s defense this summer with the USA team was excellent and Noah’s offense is much better than he thought.

And now if he can only get Asik to make a free throw.

“Derrick’s defense was terrific this summer,” Thibodeau said about watching USA games and being at some practices. “His ball pressure was great. He did a great job challenging shots, rebounded well and busted out and when he does that he’s almost impossible to stop. With a head of steam coming at your defense there’s not much you can do.

“And the thing I was impressed with was his leadership, which makes our team better,” Thibodeau said. “Your best players have to help drive the team and he did that.

“And Joakim was better offensively than I thought,” Thibodeau said. “I’m seeing things he can do. Sometimes you overlook his passing. But anytime you have good passing you make a team better.”

Rose a defender and Noah an offensive threat.

Are we talking championship, or what?

No, Thibodeau wasn’t suggesting anything like that, and he knows the talking on defense in the first day of practice can become the sniping three weeks into the season if things don’t go well. The Bulls are confident they have a good group of motivated players, and I’d have to agree for now.

“I thought the guys were ready, highly motivated, the concentration was good,” said Thibodeau. “The good teams can sustain it though the season. That’s what we’re going to have to show.”

Ah, the rub.

I’d also have to say Rose was showing no ill effects from the summer. The practice seemed intense with three former NBA referees working it, and if Michael Jordan had that so called “Love of the Game” clause in his contract, Rose has it in his DNA.

He seemed thrilled to be back on the court, and talked again about how much he’s working against his nature to be quiet.

“Knowing I have to be more vocal, I was talkative all the time in practice,” Rose said. “Today, I was talking just to say stuff and the coaches were looking at me like I was crazy. But I’m trying to get familiar to it.”

Rose, whose 22nd birthday is next week, also talked about not being old yet, not like he’s 25, or something.

Yes, they are kids.

And he weighed in on this notion that Thibodeau is some sort of wall flower that no one ever asks to dance because he has nothing to say.

“He’ll talk for two or three hours, so you’ve got to shorten your conversation with him real quick,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Come up with a good lie or something. Have one of your friends call you and say you have to go pick them up. For him to be shy and not talkative, he’ll talk basketball to you for hours.”

Still undefeated and loving it.

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