Rose-less Bulls ready to begin their test

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Training camp is over and -- ready or not -- the Chicago Bulls will start their season minus Derrick Rose on Wednesday at the United Center against the Sacramento Kings. A scary thought for Oct. 31, to be sure.

The Bulls won't rely on any one player to step up in their star's absence -- they'll count on them all.

"I think we have a lot of guys," forward Carlos Boozer said after practice on Tuesday. "Luol (Deng) is a proven scorer, Rip (Hamilton) is a proven scorer, I'm a proven scorer, also Nate (Robinson). We have a lot of guys that can score. Everybody keeps saying, 'Ooh, Booz, it's on you.' No it's not on me. It's not all on Booz. It's on all of us. You can't replace Derrick with one person."

And that might be the team slogan moving forward. Boozer believes his team could have a different leading scorer each night. That could come from a starter or bench player. It's the not the norm in the NBA, but playing without Rose for an extended period of time isn't either for the Bulls.

"With Derrick out, guys are going to have to contribute more offensively," Joakim Noah said. "There's definitely more shots out there. It's on everybody to step up and hold the fort down until he comes back."

Though he won't admit it, there's little doubt coach Tom Thibodeau is trying to make adjustments on offense to accommodate for the loss of Rose. Boozer even admitted there are set plays for Noah.

"I don't know if Joakim has ever had plays for him but we have plays for him this year," Boozer said.

Noah was asked what those plays might be.

"I'm not going to give it away the night before the game," he said with a laugh. "I only have one."

Deng is putting it on himself to take things to yet another level on offense. He averaged 15.3 points last season which is about his career average. He has scored between 14 to 19 points in seven of his eight NBA seasons. Could this be the year he averages 20 or more points?

"Hopefully I'll shoot the three better," he said. "Try to get to the free-throw (line) more. Get better on the pick-and-roll, better on the post, better on the mid-range (and) rebound better. Everything has to get better."

It's been the spoken and unspoken strategy. If every player gets a little bit better than maybe the Bulls can survive without Rose.

"Sometimes it's going to be Kirk (Hinrich), sometimes it's going to be Nate," Boozer said. "You know Luol, me and Rip will be there every night, but you never know who's going to be the high guy that night. It could be Marco (Belinelli). It won't be one guy. People keep saying that, but it won't be one guy. It will be all of us."

Boozer reiterated that notion over and over to the throng of media at the Berto Center on Tuesday, sounding as convincing as possible. But is it possible in reality? Can an NBA team be led by a different player every night and still win? And do it without a true superstar?

"We do it as a group," Boozer said. "We all feel the pressure to step up a little more individually but how the team goes the Bulls win."

The short stint in the playoffs without Rose last season didn't go well. But new faces and a full training camp have given hope.

"We don't know," Deng said. "We're good enough to win games, but we don't look at ourselves as just an average team. We're trying to get to a level to be the best."