- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Tom Thibodeau has a mission statement.
Whether it's the second preseason game of the year, as it will be Friday night in Champaign, Ill., against the Cleveland Cavaliers, or games closer to the end of the season, Thibodeau always wants his team striving for more.
"We're not a 48-minute team yet," Thibodeau said after Thursday's practice. "Defensive transition could be better. Pick and roll defense could be better. Low post defense could be better. Offensively, sustaining our spacing, getting to the second and third option, keeping the ball moving, playing to our strengths. Those are all things we could do better offensively.
"(Tuesday's game) gave us a baseline, and we're striving for improvement each and every day. We want to be a well-balanced team, we've got to be on both sides of the ball."
No matter how well the Bulls play, Thibodeau usually gives the same answer. That was the case again Thursday even though, at certain points during Tuesday's preseason opener against the Memphis Grizzlies, his starting unit appeared to be in midseason form running the ball up and down the floor. It was the play of the Bulls' new incarnation of the Bench Mob that showed it needs work.
"It better be fast," he said of getting the new group playing better together. "That's the nature of the NBA. We can talk about it, but the reality is the games are going to start in a month, and we have to be ready. Everyone's faced with (something). This is a league about change. Every year you have a new roster, then there's always trades and injuries, so I think it's how quickly you could adapt to those changes that will determine your success.
"So it's having the mental toughness and discipline necessary to get the job done and you try to build those habits each and every day. The most important thing is for everyone to understand what your job is. You have to know what your job is first and then you have to go out and do your job. And that requires you to study and learn."
Not a college game: Friday's game in Champaign might be special for fans in Central Illinois, but Kirk Hinrich is treating it like just another preseason game.
"We're just focused on going out there and trying to make some improvements," Hinrich said. "We're not really worried about being in Champaign. There's going to be a lot of Bulls fans there. We've got great fans. We're just going to go out there and try to do better ... it's not going to feel like a college game. It's really just another game."
Thibodeau was complimentary of the fan support the Bulls receive from all over the state. But he just wants to see improvement in his team.
"I think it's great," he said. "We have great support from all over the state and of course from Indiana also. So it's good, it's a good opportunity for us."
21hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
21hJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info