- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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"He knows how to play the game," Hamilton said before Bulls' shootaround Friday morning. "He can shoot, he can get to the basket, he can play with either hand, he's a smart basketball player."
Irving, who won the NBA's Rookie of the Year award last season has certainly made an impression on the Bulls. They've seen enough on tape to know that the 20-year-old point guard is going to get better.
"He's very skilled," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "He's not just athletic. A lot of players come to the league just athletic then they've got to work on a lot of stuff. He's very skilled, so it helps him out a lot. He's very good at the pick and roll game and they run a lot of that for him."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been a fan of Irving's since he came into the league. He sees how much space Irving creates and appreciates what he does for his teammates, much like Derrick Rose. He said Irving has certain qualities that set him apart from most.
"One, his demeanor," Thibodeau said. "He seems like he's a very under control type of player. He plays with a lot of poise, and I think his understanding of the game. He's a special player, and he showed that last year."
Thibodeau also noted how much more athletic the Cavs have gotten since the end of last season. Irving has more weapons to work with, especially with Syracuse product Dion Waiters, the fourth overall pick in the NBA draft, in the backcourt with him.
"They've added good young players," Thibodeau said. "I think (Anderson) Varejao is healthy which is huge for them. And Irving is a very special player because of his ability to make everyone else better. Waiters is real crafty off the dribble. It gives them a multiple pick and roll game. They have good young talent ...
"I think because of what Irving and Waiters can do off the dribble, if their penetration is breaking you down it sets up the second shot for them so they can beat you with the second shot. So you have to have a multiple effort mentality, pack the paint and then you have to gang rebound against them, but they have a lot of good young players."
More love for Noah: Thibodeau has been very impressed with the way Bulls center Joakim Noah has prepared for the season, and he paid his center another compliment Friday morning.
"The best leadership you could have is what a player's actions are," Thibodeau said. "I think if you're doing the right things that shows your teammates how serious you are about winning, your commitment to the team, and your commitment to winning. Each year he's gotten significantly better at his approach to the game. I hope it never ends. I don't think it will because I think that's Jo's nature. He works hard at his game, he's studied, and he's getting better."
The last word: Thibodeau sounded almost like a proud parent on Thursday afternoon while discussing Taj Gibson's new extension.
"He's earned it. I think it's important to reward people who work hard and perform well. He's one of those guys that's gotten better every year. He gets here early, stays late so I'm happy for him."
1dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
1dJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info