- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Luol Deng and his Chicago Bulls teammates know what people are saying about them this season. The veteran forward understands that people don't think his team will be very good without its leader, Derrick Rose, on the floor for much of the year. He realizes that, compared to the last few years, expectations are low.
He doesn't care.
"That's all right," Deng said after Sunday's practice. "That's fine with us. I think we've been in that situation before. We've been in that situation many times. We don't really care what everyone thinks. We're putting in the effort, we're putting in the work. When you keep doing that consistently you're going to get good results. We're not just trying to go out there and hope it happens. We're really working and making it happen."
That’s the mantra that Tom Thibodeau has been preaching to his team over the past few months. Obviously, they would love to have Rose back, but Thibodeau wants his team to remember that it played without Rose for much of last season. They've done it before, they can do it again. That's what he wants them to believe.
"I think the fact that we played half the season without him, I think they understand what we have to do," Thibodeau said. "It seems like we've dealt with this for two years now. Rip [Hamilton] missed 38 games and then the year before it was Carlos [Boozer] and Joakim [Noah]. So I think the responsibility falls on guys accepting and embracing their roles. Whatever their job is, you got to go out and get the job done. You got to know your job and then do your job. I think if you do that, you put yourself in position to win."
Still, that becomes trickier without Rose on the floor. Boozer admitted as much while talking about the adjustments the Bulls will have to make early last week.
"Usually when we have Derrick, the shot clock gets down to six (or) seven, we're searching him out to give him the ball because he can always make something amazing happen," Boozer said. "I think this year we're probably running a few more pick-and-rolls, swinging the ball, using [it] a little more until we get him back."
That's the movement Thibodeau is hoping for. He brushed off talk that the Bulls would have to break the habit of finding Rose when possessions are on life support. The hard truth is that Thibodeau wants his team believing it can do everything it needs to do without Rose. It's why he continually preaches the same message.
"Obviously Derrick is a great player, but this is not a new thing for us," Thibodeau said. "He missed half of last season. We found a way to do it last year and I expect us to find a way to do it this year. This is going to be about the players that we have available, they're more than capable. Rip's been a big shot maker his whole career, Carlos has been a big shot maker his whole career. Luol's hit a lot of big shots for us. So we have several guys that are capable."
One of those guys is Deng. He is well aware of the fact that he will be expected to do more without Rose and he is showing the outward confidence of a man who is trying to bring Thibodeau's mental teachings to life over the next few months as Rose rehabs his knee.
"We'd love to have Derrick, but we definitely think we can do it," Deng said. "You got to think like that. We did that last year, we definitely miss him. It's a lot easier with him out there, but everyone's just going to have to step it up. I think guys have been in situations where Derrick has been out, or I've been out, or Booz has been out, and the new guys have played in systems without us so it's really jelling together with this group that we have right now until Derrick is healthy."
What happens if players try to do too much themselves without Rose on the floor? Deng doesn't think that will be a problem given Thibodeau's approach to teamwork and details.
"They'll probably end up sitting on the bench," Deng said with a laugh. "That would be Thibs' problem to worry about. I think guys will be fine, I think everyone is committed to working together."
The Bulls will miss Derrick Rose, but they know how to play without him.