Previous ArticlesBulls await Butler’s status after toe injury
One day at time for Thibodeau, Rose and the Bulls
by Adam Fluck
Posted on Nov 20
As the Bulls embark on the first of two six-game road trips this season, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, in typical fashion, isn’t about to skip any steps.
“The way we’ve always approached it—and we’re not going to change—is that we’re not looking at it as a long road trip,” stated Thibodeau on Tuesday. “We’re just looking at it as getting ready for Denver. That’s why you want to establish a routine of preparation and you approach it the same way every game. If you look at it that way, prepare yourself and do the right things, the results will take care of themselves.”
Achieving those results in the short-term will have to happen without the services of starting shooting guard Jimmy Butler. As the team landed in Denver on Wednesday, it was announced Butler has a sprain to his right great toe, an injury commonly referred to as turf toe. Butler will not accompany the team on its current road trip and he is listed as week-to-week.
But don’t expect any excuses out of Thibodeau when it comes to getting the job done away from the United Center, where Chicago owns a perfect 5-0 record this season.
“I think you have to have a certain mentality, a mental toughness to win on the road,” explained Thibodeau. “Whatever it is that you’re facing, you can handle it if you’ve prepared the right way. In this league, you can always look at something, whether it’s three days in a row off, you’re going on a long road trip, you’ve got a back to back, four [games] in five [nights], you’ve got a late, early or afternoon start… whatever it is, just be ready for it.”
The Bulls have been ready as of late, winning five straight games for the first time since March of 2012. As they go for No. 6 in a row on Thursday against the Nuggets, Derrick Rose said the team is approaching this road trip with the belief they will continue their winning ways.
“We’ve got good feelings that we’re going to go out and have a good trip,” said Rose. “We’re staying positive. Thank God we’ve been winning some games; those help with our confidence. I think we’re going to have a good trip.”
Though Rose has yet to play his best basketball this season—he’s shot 34.4 percent from the field, well below his career mark of 46.1 percent—both the player and his coach are pleased overall with how he’s played as well as the direction in which he’s heading.
“I’m happy with how I’m performing,” said Rose. “I’m OK with it. I know that I’m going to catch my rhythm. As long as I’m playing defense and giving a great effort, that’s all I can do right now. I can’t get frustrated; I’m doing everything in my will to prepare my game and really work on my game, being efficient. It’s not clicking the way I want it to yet, but it’s going to come.”
A former NBA MVP and three-time NBA All-Star, Rose talked on Tuesday about the personal importance of being a leading scorer. His answer showed not only makes him a great point guard, but a better teammate.
“I could care less,” said Rose. “Winning takes care of everything. My job is to win games. If I wasn’t the leading scorer, who cares? We’re winning. If we were to win a championship and I wasn’t to get an award or anything, it would still count as a championship. So my goal is to go out there and play as hard as I can and try to will my team and put my guys in the right position and do positive things on the court.”
Thibodeau, meanwhile, has no doubt that as Rose takes more shots, he’ll make more. Well-known for the endless hours he spends watching tape, Thibodeau looks at each game to analyze what the Bulls are doing well and what needs to improved upon. In Rose’s case, Thibodeau doesn’t necessarily see it as a situation that needs correcting.
“When I looked at his shots, he had a number of shots that were in and out,” said Thibodeau of Rose. “I think he’s real close to exploding. He’s just got to keep doing it.”
As Thibodeau has pointed out before, “It’s a make or miss league.” He likes that Rose has played unselfishly, and as important, that he’s taking good shots and making the right plays.
“He’s still figuring out how it’s going, how the game is going, and I think each game he’s gotten more comfortable,” said Thibodeau of Rose. “He’s got to keep attacking, that’s his game. What he’s doing a lot of is forcing the defense to collapse and then making the right play, which I think is giving us rhythm threes. As we continue to shoot better, it will open up the floor more for him.
“It all goes hand in hand,” added Thibodeau. “Just make the right play, get established inside-out, search Carlos [Boozer] out, search Taj [Gibson] out, get your dribble penetration into the lane, make quick decisions, keep the ball moving, keep bodies moving. When we do that we’re very good offensively.”
That could be just what the Bulls need to record a sixth consecutive victory when they face the Nuggets, who have averaged 104.4 points per game, seventh best in the NBA.
“They’re playing a lot better,” said Thibodeau of Denver, 4-6 on the season. “They’re still a very potent, high scoring team. I think they’re still going through a little bit of an adjustment [under first-year coach Brian Shaw], but they’re playing really well right now. Their point guard play is terrific. When you have guys like Ty Lawson and Andre Miller out there, it always makes your team tough. They have a guy like Nate [Robinson] coming off the bench and you’ve always got to be ready for him.
“They’ve got a lot of weapons,” Thibodeau continued. “[Wilson] Chandler is back and that gives them more options to spread you out. He can play multiple positions and is a tough matchup. [Kenneth] Faried is a load and [J.J.] Hickson can outquick you at the five. They have great depth and when they go to their bench, there’s no drop off. We’ve got to be ready for them.”