- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- As the Bulls continue to adjust to a new world without Derrick Rose, yet another fundamental question comes to the forefront as Tom Thibodeau works on the composition of his roster.
After watching Rose dominate and take over games the past few seasons, Thibodeau is going to walk into games for an elongated stretch without a true "go-to guy." As player after player has discussed since his injury, Rose was the ultimate safety net for the Bulls. When the shot clock or game clock was running down, the players on the floor simply found Rose, gave him the ball and watched as he usually delivered a basket. Now it's not so easy -- and Thibodeau and his players know it.
The veteran coach was asked after Wednesday's practice if he would like to have a "go-to" scorer without Rose on the floor, and his answer was another reminder that Rose isn't coming back for a long time.
"You always want three primary scorers," Thibodeau said. "It's always been the case. It's been the case when Derrick was here. When you look at the game, it's your ability to try to make it hard on your opponent's three primary scorers and they're going to try to make it hard on your three primary scorers. And then the responsibility of a primary scorer is when he's one on one, we want him to score. When the second defender comes, he has the responsibility to hit the open man and make the right play. So there's a lot of responsibility that goes with a primary scorer."
In Thibodeau's defense, even when Rose was able to play he usually gave the same variation of an answer. Thibodeau wants his team to have several different options who can consistently score. The difference is that when Rose was around, the question always became a moot point. If there was a final shot to be taken, Rose was going to do it. Having three scorers was nice, but only one of them was putting up the most important shot of the night and everyone in the building knew it.
Now the Bulls don't have that luxury.
It's not hard to read between the lines and understand that as long as Rose is out, Thibodeau will turn to Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton to be the primary scorers for his team. The problem is that there is no sure thing with that group. While all three have proven they can score in this league, none of them has the ability to consistently get their own shot off the dribble like Rose did.
That's why the answer as to whether Thibodeau has a "go-to" guy without Rose is undeniable -- No.
That's also why his team knows it must work harder than ever to get open looks, especially at the end of games.
"I think in this league in order to be a great team, you've got to have production from all the guys on the floor," Bulls guard Hamilton said. "You can't just have one guy do the bulk of the scoring and things like that because good teams key on that and then later in the playoffs, it's hard to win like that. So I think in order for us to be good and successful we all got to be better. We all got to help each other without Derrick and try to bring more of a team thing to try to win games."
Hamilton's teammate Joakim Noah recently talked about how the veteran guard is going to be looked at to be a focal point in the offense with Rose out of the fold. The issue isn't so much whether Hamilton can handle the pressure that comes with that role since he has already proven he can help a team win a championship in Detroit. The issue is, can Hamilton and the rest of his veteran teammates stay healthy enough to stay on the floor with Rose out?
For now, Hamilton is happy with the way his team is progressing but he knows it still has a lot of work to do.
"I think we're playing well," he said. "I think we play well (in) spurts. I think that guys are still learning each other. With seven new layers, guys are still trying to understand their roles and things like that, so I think we're getting a little bit better each and every day. I think we're nowhere near where we want to be, I think (there's) still a lot of room for improvement ... I think it's still a work in progress."
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