CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls' 104-64 destruction of the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night was such a laugher that Bulls' head coach Tom Thibodeau, who rarely ever sits down during a game, actually planted himself on the bench. Midway through the third quarter. The difference on Sunday night, as it will be throughout the course of the season for Thibodeau's bunch, is that the Bulls once again proved that they are among the deepest teams in the league.
Rip Hamilton was a late scratch because of a groin injury. No problem. Ronnie Brewer inserted himself in the lineup and dropped 17 points on the Grizzlies, thanks in part to a much improved 3-point shot.
C.J. Watson hurts his elbow early in the fourth quarter. No problem. John Lucas III comes out of nowhere to score eight points in 10 minutes. The Bulls' bench depth was a reoccurring theme throughout last season and one of the biggest reasons the team led the league with 62 regular-season victories. It's also one of the reasons why the Bulls are so confident they can have the same kind of success this year.
"I think we're the deepest team in the NBA," Bulls center Joakim Noah bluntly said after the game. "I think Omer [Asik] has been playing great for us. Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver, all these guys I feel could be starters. I feel like it definitely takes our team to a whole 'nother level when you bring in the second unit and they're very good."
That is the key for the Bulls. They don't just have extra bodies who fill space on the bench throughout the year. They have several players who could easily be starters for other teams throughout the league. It's a luxury that other NBA teams would love to have.
"I think that we're pretty deep with the guys that we have," Bulls point guard Derrick Rose said. "I think that everybody on our team knows their role. I'll just say that. Where when they come in, they know their job. They work hard. Everybody on our team works hard from the starters to the bench players to the coaches. Right now, it's just paying off for us."
It continues to pay off in a big way almost every night. When the Bulls need a spark, all Tom Thibodeau has to do is turn his head around and send in one of the reserves. In a condensed, lockout-shortened season like the one the Bulls are going through right now, it's the difference between good teams and great ones. The Bulls feel like they have in the latter category.
"You need everybody," Thibodeau said. "As it worked out, our bench has played very effectively in short minutes. Tonight, Ronnie Brewer stepped in and he has played well since the preseason."
In many ways, Brewer represents the riches the Bulls have from the reserve unit. He could have sulked when the Bulls signed Hamilton before the season, but he seems to be motivated by the move. The veteran continues to spend hours working on his three point shot and that work is paying off. Brewer is playing as well now than at any point last season.
"We know what guys can do," he said. "You don't want to look at other teams and downplay what they got, and what they can contribute, but I seriously think from the starting five and then the Bench Mob that we bring in we might be one of the deepest teams. You saw tonight. John Lucas, [Brian Scalabrine], Jimmy Butler, they came in and didn't miss a beat. They defended, they rebounded and knocked down shots."
As we learned last year, when Brian Scalabrine's name can be seen in a box score, that's a pretty good indication that the bench has done its job.