Chicago Bulls: Nick Friedell

Thibs: LeBron 'up there with all-time best'

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
9:00
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Tom Thibodeau does not believe it's fair to try to compare LeBron James to other players at this point in his career. After all, James is still just 29 years old and doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. But that doesn't mean the veteran coach can't heap some heavy praise on James and his prolific, all-around game.

[+] EnlargeTom Thibodeau
Greg Bartram/USA TODAY SportsTom Thibodeau is just 2-8 against LeBron James as a head coach.
"Obviously, what he's done has been great," Thibodeau said Monday before the Bulls' game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. "I think it would be unfair to him to judge him now. I think when you're judging greatness, it's having the ability to judge it over a long period of time. Until he's done, we won't know ultimately, but he's right up there with the all-time best. When you look at it, to do it year after year, he doesn't miss many games, he's been very durable. He's a great competitor, and he makes his team win."

Thibodeau would know. Although he had some success against James during his time as an assistant with the Boston Celtics, Thibodeau is just 2-8 against James as a head coach. He knows James has the rare ability to make a play even when the defense can be drawn up perfectly.

"He's a great player," Thibodeau said. "[There's] not many things he hasn't seen. Sometimes you could do it perfectly, and he still can hurt you. The idea is you want to make him work for what he gets, but you can't do it at the expense of leaving everyone else open. The challenge when you're guarding somebody like that is you're helping with him, but you're also getting back to the other guys. It requires multiple efforts and challenging shots and finishing your defense. When you're dealing with a star that passes the ball like that, what it does is it makes everyone else a lot better. He tests you in every different way."

James' test is one Thibodeau knows the Bulls must be prepared for this season. Although he does not like seeing him on the opposite end of the floor, Thibodeau appreciates how good James has become. He knows that in order to be the best, the Bulls are eventually going to have to get through the best player in the league.

"If you're a competitor, I think that's what you want," Thibodeau said. "When you're facing great teams and great coaches, that's what makes it challenging. We know it's not about one guy -- it's about the team. Same for us. When you're facing a great team, it requires you to make sure that you're committed to playing as a team. If we stray off and try to do it individually, we'll be in trouble."

In listening to Thibodeau speak about James, it's also clear the domineering head coach is appreciative of how James goes about his business. Thibodeau likes that James thinks for himself and does what he believes is right. That's why he never seemed shocked James came back to Cleveland for the second time earlier this summer.

"The one thing about LeBron is he stays true to himself," Thibodeau said. "I don't think he gets wrapped up in criticism or praise. He does what he thinks is right. He made a bold decision to leave. He made a bold decision to come back. But ultimately, he did what he felt was best for him and his family. I've got great respect for him as a competitor."

Rose enjoys challenge of LeBron, Cavs

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
10:41
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Derrick Rose does not like talking about one-on-one matchups. Like his coach Tom Thibodeau, he knows games are won and lost as a team. But that doesn't mean Rose didn't have a little extra motivation to perform well Monday night against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"It's basketball," Rose said. "I've been competing my whole life. I'm used to the stage, I'm used to playing against very good people, very good talent, and that's all they got on that team is talent, so you know, when you play against them, you know you got to come out here and ball."

Rose and Thibodeau got a firsthand look at James' new running mate, Kyrie Irving, this summer, when the trio represented Team USA in the FIBA World Cup of Basketball.

"Kyrie, he's a young guy that's gotten better and better," Thibodeau said. "He's a star. He's a superstar.

"He played great for Team USA. He can shoot, he can break you down off the dribble, he can make plays. I thought his defense was excellent throughout [the tournament]. He did a really good job. He's right up there at the top of the league. There's not much he can't do. Obviously, handling the ball [and] pick-and-rolls. He can play off the ball, too. But he's a very good player."

While it was clear from Rose's play that he was more amped than usual for this contest, the former MVP said he's feeling good as he gets set for the regular season. Monday's game marked the second set of back-to-backs he has participated in this preseason.

"After every game, Jen [Swanson] always tells me I should feel like I always do [even] more," Rose said. "That's how I feel right now, even though I played the back-to-back. Both games were hard, [but] I feel like I could always go out there and play again. Just taking my time, listening to everything that they tell me to do and really listening to my body and conditioning my body -- that's key."

Noah enjoys being at Ohio State: Joakim Noah likes being booed. He enjoys playing the role of villain to fan bases throughout the country. He took more pride in that role than usual Monday night at Schottenstein Center, the home of the Ohio State Buckeyes, the team the University of Florida, led by Noah, defeated in the 2007 national championship. Noah admitted to looking up at Ohio State's runner-up banner that hung in the rafters.

"It's because we won the championship," Noah said of the boos. "And then we beat them in football. It's all good, though."

Noah also took pride in the fact that Monday's game marked the first pair of back-to-backs he has participated in this season, as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery.

"I feel good, and I feel like I can do more," he said. "I'm just happy. Compared to how I felt two weeks ago, I feel like it's just progressing, and that's a positive."

The last word: Noah, on Rose's 30-point performance: "It's big, especially with everything that he's gone through. He's the fastest guy on the court, by far. ... I like his mentality. He's aggressive, and I think we're going to be really good."

Rose's performance brings joy to locker room

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
10:09
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The most noticeable part of Derrick Rose's 30-point explosion was the impact it had on the rest of his teammates. The Chicago Bulls lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night, but you wouldn't have guessed it from the smiles that lit up their faces while they talked about Rose performing at the highest level again. They watched as Rose drove to the rim and knocked down jumper after jumper in the first half. They nodded in appreciation as Rose's cuts opened up the floor for everybody else. This was the man they've been waiting to see, waiting to play with since Rose tore the medial meniscus in his right knee. This is the man who can lead the Bulls to a championship. Most importantly, this is the man who gives them hope.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteDerrick Rose's vintage effort against the Cavs served as a reminder to LeBron and the league that he and the Bulls are going to be a force in the East if they can stay healthy.
"It [brought] up old memories, man," Bulls power forward Taj Gibson said happily. "Just a good positive thing to take from this game. Derrick looked great."

For the first time in almost a year, Rose looked once again like the player he used to be before his initial ACL injury in the first game of the 2012 playoffs. He looked like the type of player who could put a team on his back and carry it to a different place. For the Bulls, watching Rose dominate offensively was like watching an old favorite movie for the first time in a while. His play brought up the confidence level of everybody around him.

"You're talking about an MVP-caliber player," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "So it makes the game easy for everybody. He's getting easy baskets in transition, he's attacking in the pick-and-roll, he's in the paint making plays, so it's a positive."

It's also a large negative for the rest of the league if Rose can continue turning back the clock like this. While there is no such thing as a statement game in October, Rose offered up a large reminder to LeBron James and the rest of the league that he and the Bulls are going to be a force in the Eastern Conference if they can stay healthy.

Rose didn't want to come out and say this was his best preseason game to date, but it was obvious after listening to those around him speak: This wasn't just Rose's best game in the preseason, this was Rose's best game in a while. He wanted to send a message to James and Kyrie Irving, the player who started ahead of him on Team USA this summer, that he can still be the dominant force he used to be.

"The team is feeling more comfortable with me being on the floor," Rose said. "Feeling comfortable with me just picking my spots, getting people involved and just trying to pick spots in the game where I can really affect the game."

Rose is such a transcendent talent, and so important to the Bulls' future, that he has the ability to affect more than just the game. On this night, he affected the entire organization's mood. The relief from Bulls personnel throughout the building was palpable. This was the man they hoped they would see again. This is the man who can deliver them to where they want to go.

"It feels great," Bulls center Joakim Noah said of Rose's performance. "Just seeing him move like that is big for our team. He's definitely one of our big guns -- he's our big gun -- so just to see him play like that, I know how hard he's worked to get there. I just feel like if we just keep improving we can do something special."

Jimmy Butler out with sprained left thumb

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
5:26
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Chicago Bulls swingman Jimmy Butler will not play Monday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers because of a sprained left thumb. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Tuesday when the Bulls return to Chicago.

"As of right now it's just day-to-day," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said before the game. We'll know more after [Tuesday]."

Butler injured the thumb during Sunday night's win over the Charlotte Hornets after going for a steal in the first quarter. He stayed in the game for a few more minutes after the initial injury but was taken out and never returned. He wore a splint on the thumb while working out on Monday night.

Veteran guard Kirk Hinrich will start in Butler's place.

As for Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah's status, Thibodeau was non-committal regarding whether or not they would play in the fourth quarter as they did on Sunday night against the Hornets. For the first time in almost a year, Rose was on the floor on Sunday to close out a game. The Bulls have taken a cautious approach with both Rose and Noah as each recovers from knee surgery.

Derrick Rose takes next step in Bulls win

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
11:36
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- Taj Gibson spoke for the entire Chicago Bulls' organization Sunday night when he described what it was like to have Derrick Rose back on the floor to close out games as he did in a win over the Charlotte Hornets.

"It's a dope feeling," Gibson said. "We know who's going to take the shot. Either Pau [Gasol], Derrick. We got Joakim [Noah] making solid plays. We got guys that's back in the rotation, and even with Derrick, he's stepping in and taking that strong midrange when he needs to take it, and it showed tonight."

Rose's stats were solid against the Hornets, but out of his 27 minutes played, it was the final 7:22 that were most crucial. That's because that marked the first time in almost a year that Rose was on the floor to close out a game. While the former MVP has downplayed the significance of being on the floor late for preseason games, it's clear his teammates and coaches were thrilled to see him back in the pressurized, late-game saddle on Sunday. They know they need him out there late and were happy to see his stabilizing presence on the floor as the final minutes wound down.
[+] EnlargeRose
AP Photo/Paul BeatyDerrick Rose was on the floor in the fourth quarter Sunday -- a welcome sight for fans, teammates and coaches alike.

"I think it's a positive thing," Gasol said. "It's great that we can have him down the stretch. He also gets used to playing those minutes where every decision is important. So, yeah, it's nice to have him on the floor."

Rose still has a lot of rust in his game. It's noticeable on his drives to the rim and in some of his shots, and it will likely take months before he consistently feels like himself again with the ball. But the mental aspect of Rose's return is huge for both him and his teammates, and even if Rose isn't the same player he once was (right now), he's still a talented point guard who can create space -- and shots -- for his teammates. His ability to cut into traffic makes his teammates feel better about their chances.

That's why head coach Tom Thibodeau has to be pleased with what he saw Sunday. It was the best all-around performance his team has had in the preseason, and it ended the way he's hoping many games this season do -- with the ball in Rose's hands as the contest is coming to a close.

"The intensity's different," Thibodeau said of the fourth quarter. "The defense is different. You have to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the team, understand how they're defending you, what you can take advantage of, what the openings are. Who are they rotating to? How far off are they? And then you want to make them pay. Usually for a player like that, any time you put two [defenders] on him, there's somebody open. And he's got to have the ability to read that and make that decision quickly. I think that comes back by being out there."

Rose took another small but important step in his latest comeback Sunday. He closed out a game with the rest of the starters (minus the injured Jimmy Butler) and remembered what it was like to take pressure-packed shots -- and make them. Thibodeau has said many times the past few months that the best thing Rose can do to knock the rust off is play.

Although Rose's confidence is still a work in progress, the confidence his presence breeds in those around him can't be overstated. The Bulls are hoping a lot more nights in the future end like Sunday did -- with Rose on the floor and a victory in hand.

Butler out with sprained thumb

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
8:19
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler will miss the rest of Sunday night's preseason game against the Charlotte Hornets after he injured his left thumb. The injury, dubbed a sprained thumb by the Chicago Bulls, occurred with about five minutes left in the first quarter, when Butler went for a steal. He stayed in the game at the time but was taken out toward the end of the first quarter and never returned.

Butler, who is having the best preseason stretch of his career, has been the Bulls' most consistent all-around player since training camp opened.

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said Butler would be re-evaluated Monday. While Thibodeau wasn't sure of the exact protocol, it's likely Butler will get an MRI to make sure his ligaments are intact. Thibodeau did say there was some swelling in the thumb.

"It's a sprain," Thibodeau said. "So they'll know more [Monday]. We'll see."

As for Butler's availability Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Thibodeau said that would be determined later.

"I don't know yet," Thibodeau said. "[Athletic trainer Jeff Tanaka] basically told me it's day-to-day right now, until they can re-examine him and then go from there."

Confidence soars for lighter Jimmy Butler

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
3:51
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Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler's performance during Thursday night's win over the Atlanta Hawks prompted excited cheers from all over the basketball universe.

How big was Butler's 20-point fourth quarter, coupled with a winning 3-pointer at the buzzer? Actor Mark Wahlberg sent Butler a shoutout on Instagram, congratulating him on his late-game heroics. Butler and Wahlberg became friendly after meeting a couple of summers ago while the actor was in town to film a movie.

[+] EnlargeBulls
AP Photo/Jeff HaynesJimmy Butler is shooting 60.4 percent from the floor in the preseason.
If Butler, who is averaging 18.6 points a game on 60.4 percent shooting in the preseason, continues playing the way he has, then he's going to catch the attention of even more A-listers on his way up the NBA food chain.

But as Butler continues to make a name for himself as being the best Bull on the floor during this preseason, the question remains: How did he get so much better? Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau believes it starts with Butler getting into even better shape over the summer, losing about 10 pounds.

"It wasn't that he was fat," said Thibodeau of the 6-foot-7 Butler, who is listed at 220 pounds. "It was that he bulked up a little bit. I think he's at a great weight. I think he's in great shape. I think he feels good, and he's put a lot of work into it in preparing for the season."

Aside from the physical condition, the biggest key might be motivation. The deadline for Butler, 25, to sign an extension with the Bulls is Oct. 31. If the two sides do not come to an agreement, then Butler would become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Butler says he's not thinking about a new deal, but who wouldn't be thinking about his future in his situation? As he waits for some clarity on the situation, he's doing the best he can to control what he can on the floor.

"My confidence is high, and that's the way you have to play this game," Butler said. "All summer I worked on my game, the biggest thing is just confidence, taking shots I know I can make. I'm really happy on the way that I'm going right now, but I still got to keep going."

His teammates can see the difference in his confidence early on. They know how hard he's worked on his game, especially on his jumper, and they are happy to see him having success.

The big difference in Butler's game right now is that he is getting to the foul line more than ever. He was 12-for-16 from the free throw line, and teammate Derrick Rose noted that Butler plays better when he is looking for contact on the floor.

"He's playing great," Rose said. "His confidence is growing, it's definitely what we need right now. And I'm happy for him."

Will he be able to maintain it over the course of the season? Nobody is sure of that -- but what they know is that Butler has impressed in the preseason.

"He's just a good player, that's what he is," Thibodeau said. "He's going to score in transition. He can score in the post, he can score moving without the ball, cutting, he gets to the free throw line, he can make shots. ... He's an all-around scorer. He'll find different ways to put the ball in the basket."


CHICAGO -- The most intriguing moment of Thursday night's game did not come when Jimmy Butler drained a winning 3 at the buzzer over some Atlanta Hawks bench players. It came with 6 minutes, 7 seconds left in the fourth quarter, when Butler came to the scorer's table to check back into the game with Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol.

That instance was a lot more important than a meaningless preseason win because of who was not with Butler, Noah and Gasol when they went to check in: Derrick Rose.

After saying since training camp opened that players need to learn how to play with Rose again, coach Tom Thibodeau decided to leave his star on the bench when he brought back the rest of the core of his starting unit. After the game, the veteran coach brushed the decision aside, saying he expected Rose to play in the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bulls' final three preseason games.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Gary Dineen/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose is being dutifully patient with playing time and wasn't concerned about limiting his availability late in Thursday's tilt. "Just when the time is right, it's right," he said.
"[He's] still not comfortable yet, but he's getting there," Thibodeau said of Rose. "Just want him to be ready when he does go in there. He's close, though. He's close."

But he's feeling fine?

"He said to [Bulls athletic trainer Jeff Tanaka] that he was done," Thibodeau said. "He was going pretty hard in the third. So [we'll] wait another game, see [how he's feeling], make sure."

The patient approach is a prudent one when it comes to Rose's status. The Bulls should go to extreme lengths given Rose's recent health history to make sure he is comfortable when he's on the floor, especially in just the fifth preseason game of a long NBA season.

But that Thibodeau didn't go back to Rose -- and that Rose didn't sound too concerned about not being in for the stretch run -- is telling. If nothing else, it shows a distinct change in philosophy from player and coach.

During Rose's last four preseason games a year ago, the former MVP averaged almost 32 minutes per game. He played down the stretch in games and became accustomed to taking pressure shots again. He wanted to be back on the floor all the time to show the rest of the world, and himself, he could still play at a high level.

A year later, Rose, at least outwardly, seems content to allow the preseason to play out at a slower pace, appreciating the long grind of a new basketball campaign.

"I think my body is going to hold up," Rose said. "I think I worked too hard. I'm not worried about minutes. I could care less about them. Just trying to be patient and do exactly what they tell me to do."

Rose always has been a people pleaser, but he seems intent on listening to himself, and his body, more than ever. That's what makes the present situation a little trickier this time around for Thibodeau and the Bulls.

The coach has voiced his displeasure several times about the medical restrictions being placed Rose and Noah during the preseason. But on the night Noah took another step in his progression by coming back into the game in the fourth quarter, Rose sat quietly on the end of the bench watching the action.

Should fans be worried because Rose didn't come back, or should they be excited that he is taking a different approach to his latest comeback?

Rose said he would like to have been in the game late, but he knows there will be more to play for in the future. He said he didn't talk to Tanaka about the 20-minute runs he's been getting in the preseason. It just kind of happened.

"I would [like to be out there], but at the same time be patient," Rose said. "It's no rush at all. Knowing how hard I worked, I'm not worried about it. Just when the time is right, it's right."

If Rose isn't worried about his playing time, should the rest of us be? It's an interesting quandary for the entire organization.

On one hand, Thibodeau has said all summer that in order for Rose to find his rhythm again, he must play. On the other, Thibodeau doesn't want to upset his star player and risk putting him into a situation he's not ready for right now.

Maybe Thursday's decision not to come back into the game will be insignificant over time as Rose eases his way back into playing after so much time off. But in the short term, the Bulls know they must play together in order to find the consistency that has eluded them throughout much of the preseason.

"We just have a lot of work to do," Noah said. "And yeah, continuity's important. Right now we're in a situation where we got to find the right balance. We've got guys coming back from injuries; that's a reality. And continuity is very important as well, so we got to find the right balance.

“It's not pointing fingers at anybody. We just got to find ways as a team to make this work, and I know we will."

Nobody is blaming Rose for his decision to sit a few extra minutes Thursday night. His teammates and coaches all want what's best for him in the long term, and they know they can't win a championship without him. After all, championships aren't won in October.

But the seeds of a championship run are planted now.

The confidence that has defined Rose's game has to be built up again.

In order to do that, the former MVP has to trust his body can withstand all the minutes coming his way. He'll get plenty of chances in the near future to prove he does.

Will Bulls start McDermott over Dunleavy?

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
12:11
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy will not play in Thursday's game against the Atlanta Hawks after slipping on a wet spot on Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeMike Dunleavy
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty ImagesMike Dunleavy's versatility could make it easier for Tom Thibodeau to make Doug McDermott a starter.
He is not expected to miss much time, but it marks the second game in less than a week that he will be out. He sat out Saturday's victory over the Milwaukee Bucks because of left knee soreness.

Over the past few days, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been asked several times about the possibility of rookie Doug McDermott beginning the season in the starting lineup. McDermott played well in Dunleavy's place on Saturday and is expected to start on Thursday as well.

Thibodeau remains noncommittal about starting McDermott, but it's clear that the thought has run through his mind.

"I don't want to overlook what Mike's done, either," Thibodeau said after Thursday's shootaround. "Mike has shot the ball extremely well. I think he helps that first unit function well. I'm not locked into it, but I don't want to ... Mike's team defense is outstanding. I don't want to overlook that. You have to think about [how McDermott would be] guarding a starter now, so that does make it different. That's the great value of Mike -- he's started before, he's come off the bench, he's comfortable in both roles.

"He's got a great motor, he doesn't need a long time to warm up. But I liked the way he played last year as a starter for us a lot, so I don't want to make that decision yet. We'll see how it unfolds."

The key for Thibodeau is that if he elevates McDermott into the starting role, he could solidify his bench group with Dunleavy playing alongside Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson. Dunleavy played in all 82 regular season games last year. He started 61 games with Jimmy Butler dealing with injuries early in the season and after the Luol Deng trade in January.

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Dunleavy's presence off the bench would also mean that Thibodeau wouldn't be leaning on a second unit that would have two rookies with McDermott and Nikola Mirotic.

Thibodeau says he still isn't sure what he will do, but if McDermott shows he can pick up the defensive schemes quickly, it might be best long-term for Thibodeau to leave McDermott with the starters and allow his game to grow that way.

Rose and Noah improving: Thibodeau would not reveal whether Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose will play more than about 20 minutes, as they did in Milwaukee on Saturday, but he seems happy with their progression.

"As long as they continue to get better, that's the big thing," Thibodeau said. "Have good timing, practice well, play well. Hopefully it will all work out."

Does Thibodeau see improvement from the pair over the past few weeks?

"They're definitely moving in the right direction," he said. "They've just got to keep working at it and the more they're on the floor together the better it's going to get. The same thing -- they have to get used to playing with Pau and the entire group. Each day's a little bit better."

Thibodeau gets defensive regarding injuries

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
9:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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Tom ThibodeauAP Photo/Jeff Haynes"Just don't play him, he won't get hurt," is how Tom Thibodeau described his approach to injury.
CHICAGO -- Tom Thibodeau coaches every second of every game as if it were his last. The Chicago Bulls coach expects the same intensity from his players. He believes he knows how to pace a team after spending more than two decades on an NBA sideline. He doesn't believe in resting players unless they are injured -- and as he has said many times over the years, there is a difference between being hurt and being injured. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise the veteran coach bristled before Monday's game when the topic of injuries came up.

"The only way you can guarantee a guy not getting hurt is don't play him," Thibodeau said. "Don't practice him. Don't play him. Don't play him in the preseason. Don't play him in the regular season. Just don't play him. He won't get hurt."

After dealing with Derrick Rose's various injuries over the past three seasons, Thibodeau has empathy for what other coaches are going through with the rash of injuries that has struck the NBA this preseason, but he knows those setbacks are "just part of the game."

"[Kevin] Durant [injured his foot] in practice from what I've read," Thibodeau continued. "[Injuries] happen at different times. So usually, if it's a broken bone, it's probably the result of a collision. It's body-on body contact. It's physical out there."

Thibodeau wasn't done. He referenced the team he has repeatedly called the "gold standard" of the NBA to back up his point about being able to give players more minutes.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsDerrick Rose had 15 points, five assists and five rebounds in just less than 21 minutes against Denver.
"As I said, there's different approaches," he said. "You look at San Antonio, they played late and obviously, they won it. But when I'm looking at their box scores, I watched a little bit of their game, I think it's a strong message what they're saying right now. They're preparing themselves to defend their championship. And so in order to get that away from them, you're going to have to wrestle it away from them. They ain't just going to give it away. And so, I think your mindset has to be right.

"They say [Tim] Duncan never leaves the gym. When you look at great players, that's usually when you read about guys who have achieved something great. It's usually them getting past adversity, them making great effort and their readiness to accept the challenge. I think you need a great commitment from your team if you want to do something special. That commitment has to start at the beginning, and it has to remain throughout."

Thibodeau was noncommittal on whether he has seen that commitment from this Bulls team during the early part of this season, but it's apparent from his recent answers he is frustrated by the medical restrictions being placed on Rose and Bulls center Joakim Noah. Each played 20 minutes, 33 seconds in Monday night's victory over the Denver Nuggets. Noah seems to understand why Thibodeau has been more mercurial than usual.

"He's always pushing buttons, and I think it's a good thing," Noah said after the game. "There's nothing comfortable about what we do, and as soon as you get comfortable, you get your ass kicked, so I think he's just trying to make sure we stay on edge and keep working hard. I think that if we do that he knows that we'll have a shot to do something good, so we just got to keep fighting, keep getting better."

Shaw's theory: Nuggets coach Brian Shaw has an interesting theory of his own on why more players seem to be getting hurt than in the past.

"I still have this premise that it goes back to kind of this generation of player and all the AAU games that they play," Shaw said. "In high school and before high school -- coming up when my generation of players played, and even before me -- you kind of played basketball and when basketball season was over you were done. You went on in and played baseball, and the next season you played football. So you use different muscles. Now, you have club teams and AAU teams and whatever that are playing ball all year round. You don't give those muscles any time off, any time to relax. That's just my own personal theory -- I think that has a lot to do with some of the injuries that we're seeing today."

Rose watch: Rose scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out five assists Monday night in his 20:33 of action. Shaw believes Rose is on the right track as he works his way back from another knee injury.

"I saw some of their practices in the summer in Vegas, and it seemed to me as if he had all of his explosiveness back. I know a lot of times you come back from injury [and] the areas that you injured are stronger than they were before when you went out in the first place. But I also think that there's a period where, right away, everything looks good and then you kind of take a step back.

"The timing, just getting the rust out and all those things. But I fully expect for him to return to form. You see bursts of it here or there, and I think that with some of the acquisitions that the Bulls made, especially in particular Pau Gasol, it's going to help make things a little bit easier for him, and he doesn't have to do so much on the floor because Pau will make the game a little bit easier for him and everybody else out there."

Butler shines as Bulls bounce back

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
11:24
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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BullsAP Photo/Jeff HaynesTeammates agree Jimmy Butler has been the top Bull in the preseason, though his coach wants more.
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler reclined comfortably in front of his locker late Monday night after the Chicago Bulls' impressive 110-90 comeback victory over the Denver Nuggets. Sam Hunt's country music blared from the speakers in his stall and he patiently fielded questions from a small group of reporters. Butler had just polished off the best game of the young preseason, going off for 21 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the field, pulling down six rebounds and dishing out two assists.

As contract-extension talks linger ahead of an Oct. 31 deadline to get such deals done, Butler wore the look of a relaxed man as he spoke. He knows how much money is on the line, and he knows how important this preseason is for him and his teammates, but the Bulls swingman is trying not to let all the talk about his future go to his head.

"I'm from Tomball, [Texas]," Butler said. "I'm not even supposed to be in the NBA, let alone be a star player. I just want to be wanted. I just want to play hard. I just want to help win. End of story. Star player, role player, bench player, whatever it takes. Just let me win."

Butler's attitude reflects the exact type of player coach Tom Thibodeau wants on his team -- the type of guy who will do whatever it takes each night. That's why Butler's attitude toward Thibodeau's recent frustration regarding his team's play has been so interesting. In the past three preseason games, Butler has been the Bulls' most consistent player. While Thibodeau rants about his team's preparation and performance, Butler has been the voice saying everything would be OK.

But even after the Bulls came back from a 21-point, first-half deficit, Thibodeau seemed hell-bent on turning positives back into building blocks. Even as Butler appears to be taking the next step in his game, Thibodeau, as usual, is left wanting more.

"Jimmy's playing really well," Thibodeau said. "He came into camp in great shape. He's practicing extremely well. I'm pleased, very pleased with him offensively. Defensively, he's been good, but we all know he's capable of being great. I'm expecting him to set the tone for us defensively. He's one of our team leaders. We need to get an edge. We don't have an edge right now."

Thibodeau is expecting Butler to bring that edge each night this season, just as Luol Deng did before him. While Thibodeau continues to push Butler for more, his teammates can tell the 25-year-old has come in more focused than ever this season.

"Jimmy's been playing really well this preseason," Bulls forward Pau Gasol said. "It's been fun to play with him these few games, and I look forward to play more with him because he's a guy with a lot of potential. Very, very active, very athletic, powerful in his position, been shooting the ball well. Very complete. It's been fun so far."

The issue for Thibodeau is that, while Butler continues his solid play, the rest of his teammates are having problems putting great sequences together. Bulls center Joakim Noah knows the rust Thibodeau has talked about throughout the preseason isn't off yet.

"I think we're working to knock it off, that's for sure," Noah said. "I think everybody's working hard. I think the mindset is good, and, yeah, there's definitely rust."

As Noah spoke, he caught a glimpse of Butler, who was headed to the shower.

"Jimmy doesn't have any rust. I'll tell you that," Noah said, as Butler inquired about what he was saying. "No rust. No rust for the Jimbo."

Butler's play has caught a lot of people's attention early in the preseason. He's more aggressive on both ends and looks as if he is more comfortable in the offense. While the rest of his team searches for an identity, Butler seems to have found his.

"I think there's a lot more to come," Butler said. "Still a lot that we can get better on, as you can probably tell from Thibs' reactions in the first half. But that's what practice is for, that's what film is for, so we're going to get back to it."

That's exactly what Thibodeau wants to hear. In a season filled with expectations, it's been Butler who is exceeding them more than anyone else right now.

Thibodeau still dissatisfied with Bulls' play

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
2:47
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau remains unhappy with his team's preparation over the past week. He made that clear several times after Saturday's win in Milwaukee and reiterated that point after Monday's shootaround in advance of a preseason game against the Denver Nuggets.

[+] EnlargeTom Thibodeau
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastBulls coach Tom Thibodeau isn't satisfied with the Bulls' play this preseason.
"We're evaluating everything, so it's not only the rookies, it's the entire team," Thibodeau said, in regards to a question about rookie Doug McDermott. "We have to determine who we're going to start with, who we're going to finish with, who can handle playing, what's the group doing that's on the floor, who's functioning well together, who has their game sharp. When you're watching the film after you see that there's a lot of things that are not acceptable and we got to get those corrected."

Thibodeau acknowledged again that he is 'concerned' about timing issues for Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah as they return from separate knee injuries. While his general frustration seems to be based upon the fact that his team isn't playing well as a group, he is particularly frustrated with the fact that he can't play Rose and Noah together -- with the rest of the starters -- as much as he would like because of the restrictions on their minutes right now.

The interesting part of Thibodeau's comments is that not everyone in his locker room agrees with him. While Bulls power forward Taj Gibson said after Saturday's win that he liked the fact Thibodeau was pushing hard in preseason, swingman Jimmy Butler said Monday that he liked the way the team was coming along.

"He is the coach so I guess he can feel however he wants to about the situation," Butler said. "I like the way that we're moving. I think the guys like the way we're moving. But I guess our standards may be a little different than his."

(Read full post)

Thibs: Rose's timing 'not there'

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
1:11
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose continues to take incremental steps forward in his return from a torn medial meniscus in his right knee, but Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau would like to see his star point guard play better.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsDerrick Rose upped his minutes to 22 in Saturday's game against the Bucks.
"The thing is, in order for him to get his timing he's got to play and he's got to work," Thibodeau said after Monday's shootaround. "Right now, his timing's not there. So it's a big adjustment for everyone because everyone has to get used to what he does on the floor. And the only way you can do that is by being out there. So we'll see."

Rose played more minutes during Saturday's win over the Milwaukee Bucks, as did Joakim Noah. After playing 14 minutes in each of the first two contests, Rose played 22 minutes, while Noah played 24 minutes after missing Tuesday's game as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery. How long will it take for Rose to get up to speed?

"It depends on the work he puts in," Thibodeau said. "He's got to shake that rust off. The game is played collectively so there's a lot of work, both he and Jo. I'm concerned about that."

(Read full post)

Thibs: Gasol could be great defender

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
12:29
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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MILWAUKEE -- Pau Gasol might have known before he signed with the Chicago Bulls this summer that Tom Thibodeau is wired a little differently than most coaches, but over the first two weeks of training camp the veteran big man is seeing first-hand just how big those difference can be. Thibodeau always wants more from his players and never seems to be satisfied.

In Saturday's latest example, Thibodeau said that while he was pleased with the way Gasol is playing on the defensive end, he wants the former All-Star to do even more.

[+] EnlargePau Gasol
Dan Lippitt/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Bulls' Pau Gasol grabs a rebound against the Pistons.
"He could do better," Thibodeau said. "He's done well, but I think he could be great. That's what I want him to be. He's got great length, he's got great timing. He's smart. He can anticipate. He's still not communicating as well as he's capable of, but he's done well thus far."

After hearing Thibodeau's comments after the game, his decision to leave the 34-year-old Spaniard in to close out a win over the Milwaukee Bucks makes more sense. Gasol, who ended up playing 30 minutes, said he wasn't surprised by Thibodeau's choice, but even he had to chuckle a little bit when asked if he has ever been a "great" defender in the league.

"All the time," he said with a smile. "I think I can get better. I had some good stretches where I played better defense. I've always been more of an offensive-minded player, but I think my shot-blocking has always gone a little bit under the radar. With this defense I'm going to be in the paint a lot, protecting the paint, protecting the rim. I feel good so I think I'm going to have a pretty good season defensively. With this group of guys they cover so much ground, there's a lot of length, athleticism, activity, so it makes things easier for everyone."

As for Gasol's relationship with Thibodeau, the pair is united in the belief that this team can win right away. Gasol didn't appear to be unnerved by Thibodeau's comment regarding his defense, but he does understand more than ever that Thibodeau expects maximum effort all the time.

"We're all getting to know each other," Gasol said. "Every individual is a little different. Obviously, our coach is a different type of guy. But I think we understand each other well. We have respect for the game. We both -- everyone in here -- wants to win. And as long as we're on the same page we should be fine."

Second-unit woes: While Gasol and the starting group played their best game to date on Saturday, the second unit of Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Tony Snell and Aaron Brooks struggled to find a rhythm together. Their performance was a sore spot for Thibodeau after the game.

"They got to play a lot better," he said. "I think when they went in it was 20-8, then it went 24-20, that can't be. We can't lose ground like that. You go in there, you got to get the job done. They're more than capable. You got to get in there and get it done."

The last word:
Milwaukee Bucks head coach (and future Hall of Fame point guard) Jason Kidd, on what he's seen so far from Derrick Rose.

"It doesn't look like he's missed any games in the sense of his athletic ability. I thought in the summer he looked extremely powerful (with) speed. I think sometimes injuries can be a positive because I think it's now helped him develop that jump shot from beyond the arc. It's gave him a lot of time to concentrate on that. You're talking about a guy that's played at a high level, MVP, so he's a smart player. So I think the injury's a positive thing that has helped him develop the jump shot and, I think, the different gears because once he gets it in six (gear) he's hard to stop. And being able to change the pace makes him dangerous, that more talented, I think."

Despite win, Thibs still 'concerned'

October, 11, 2014
Oct 11
11:52
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Derrick RoseAP Photo/Darren HauckDerrick Rose scored 16 points Saturday to 11 for fellow Simeon alum Jabari Parker, right.

MILWAUKEE -- On the surface, Saturday night should have been a good one for the Chicago Bulls. They won for the first time in three preseason games, 91-85 over the Milwaukee Bucks. Derrick Rose played 22 minutes, the most time he's seen all preseason, scored 16 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and dished out 4 assists. Joakim Noah played almost 24 minutes, the most he's played all preseason, and scored 10 points. Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler closed out the game, combining for 38 points and 18 rebounds, and held things down for their team down the stretch. Even rookie Doug McDermott played solidly in his first professional start, in place of Mike Dunleavy (sore knee).

Despite the victory and the performances, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was not pleased after the game. He wanted his team to show him more, and he continues to sound disappointed by its play over the past week.

"You're going to win some, you're going to lose some," Thibodeau said. "Obviously, you want to want to win a lot more than you lose. But I am very concerned about whether we're making the necessary preparations to win. Whether you're putting the work in that's necessary to win. I know what goes into winning and you have to do that every day. You can't skip that. You're not going to rest your way to success. You got to get sharp and you got to get sharp fast. It's a long season and you've got to prepare to play a long season."

Thibodeau has always been a hard man for his team to please. He wants his players always to reach for much more. He wants perfection on a daily basis, but what's more attainable in his world is effort. It's clear from Thibodeau's comments that he doesn't feel his team is putting in the kind of effort it needs right now into preparing for the season. As somebody who has been with Thibodeau during all five years of his tenure, Bulls power forward Taj Gibson seems to understand where his domineering coach is coming from.

"Right now it's training camp," Gibson said. "Right now you can't tap us on the back right away. We're still trying to learn. We're still trying to get better. We got a young group of guys, an extremely talented group of guys, and we're just trying to figure it out. A lot of expectations, a lot of stuff's going to come at us right away. We got a lot of teams that are going to come at us and we can't slouch. I love [Thibs'] mentality, how he's pushing us."

The players can sense that Thibodeau is a little tighter than usual. They understand that expectations, with a healthy Rose back in the fold, are higher than they have been in recent memory. Fans want another championship and they want one this season. That's why Saturday's game, despite the outcome, is another reminder that the players had better be ready to tighten things up a lot more before the Oct. 29 regular season opener at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.

"Just extra effort," McDermott said of what Thibodeau wants. "Not giving up on plays, getting back on defense. I think he's just a perfectionist. And he wants everyone to be in the right spot and I think we did a lot better job of that tonight."

Gibson knows better. The veteran used an example of a team that didn't live up to expectations recently, an example Thibodeau has surely discussed with his own team.

"You see how Brooklyn was last year," Gibson said. "So much expectation and they were scratching and clawing to get in [the playoffs]. We understand that we got a lot of things in front of us and we're pushing. We got a lot of things we got to correct from defense to offense. I think we're good, though. I think guys are hungry and we want to push it and keep working. But everybody's just got to push a little bit harder."

That's exactly the way the veteran coach wants his team to think. His message couldn't have been clearer Saturday night. He wants the Bulls to get back on track quickly because he knows that everybody will be gunning for them this season.

"The decisions as to who is going to play is going to be based on performance," Thibodeau said. "If your game's not sharp I'm going to the next guy. So that's the way it's going to be."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5