DEERFIELD, Ill. -- During more than two decades as an assistant coach in the NBA, Tom Thibodeau has developed a well-deserved reputation as a hard-nosed defensive guru. In his first year as head coach of the Chicago Bulls, he's also developed a moniker that should serve him well in the future -- at least when it comes to dealing with his All-Star point guard Derrick Rose -- offensive innovator.
It's not so much that Thibodeau's offensive Xs and Os are that much different than other coaches’ around the league, it's just that he's given Rose the freedom to create all over the floor. It's a freedom that Rose says he's never felt before.
"Never in my whole life of playing basketball,” Rose said. “He don't care. He just cares about defense. When we come down or shoot a bad shot or whatever, he don't really care about that. He wants to pick that up on the defensive end where that mistake on the offensive end, it can't happen on defense. He just says that he can live with missed shots, but he can't live with people not giving their full effort."
Obviously, Thibodeau can live with Rose setting up and running the offensive sets.
"It's his responsibility to run the team and recognize what's going on and what the matchups are," Thibodeau said. "I think that he's done a good job of pushing the ball. And if someone hasn't gotten a shot, or is maybe struggling a little bit, then he'll try to create a situation in which they get an easy basket. Often times, if you get a lay-up or two, that can get your confidence going quickly. That's the thing I think he's done really well for us."
The freedom seems to have taken Rose's offensive game to another level this season.
"At Memphis, it was like a motion offense where I really didn't need a call, or if I did, there was other players on the court, they would call something because they were older than I was and they've been in that system for a long time," Rose said. "But last year it was kind of like the same thing. [former coach] Vinny [Del Negro] called all the calls. This year, I'm learning the system a little bit more, studying it. Especially when you've got a guy like [Carlos Boozer] to come down, tell Coach to sit down and you can just pass him the ball and let Booz do his thing."
Make no mistake though, while Thibodeau is happy with the way Rose is running the offense, he doesn't want him to stop driving to the hole and creating space whenever he gets the chance.
"I want him to attack," Thibodeau said. "Him being aggressive, I want him to read, I want him to make the right plays. Run the team. Pick and rolls, transition. If he has the ball, he's the first option. And that's what puts pressure on the defense. If he's attacking and he's scoring, now there's more pressure on the defense to make decisions and if they commit to putting two on him, that's what opens it up for everybody else. I think he's found a good balance. He knows what our matchups are, who has a hot hand, who's going well. I think he's understanding now if we've gotten too many jump shots, that we have to re-establish getting inside, getting into the paint. I think he's played very well. He's running the team great."
Thibodeau can see the confidence growing in Rose's game day by day.
"He has the ability to read, and if he sees something that he likes, we're in constant communication through the game," Thibodeau said. "So he's telling me the things that he's seeing. I'm telling him the things that I'm seeing and then in preparation of each opponent we know what we're trying to attack and what we're looking for."
Rose is third in All Star voting: After the second round of All-Star votes were released Thursday afternoon, it was revealed that Rose sits behind Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo and Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade for the two starting spots. As long as Rose makes the team, he says he'll be happy.
"It would be great," Rose said of starting. "But, like I said, just get me on the team. Let me be the water boy or something like that. I'll be good. Towel boy or something. Let me run the clock or something, I'll be good."
The last word: Rose, on the differences between last year's and this year's team:
"I remember last year, we used to go into games where we used to be like, ‘How are we going to win this game?’ Or, ‘Man, what are we going to do?’ Now, we go into games where we know what to do. If we're messing up in a certain area, we can hurry up and change it right when we're playing. We don't got to look at film tomorrow or say, ‘That's why we lost,’ we can change it right there and that's been the difference between this year and last year."