Chicago Bulls: Tom Thibodeau

With opener near, defense not finished product

October, 26, 2014
Oct 26
2:26
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- While Chicago Bulls players might be happy that the preseason schedule is complete, the coaching staff would not mind more opportunities to fine tune the squad.

After a full collection of practice games when Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah were on minutes restrictions, and Jimmy Butler sat out the tail end with a thumb injury, the Bulls never did get to put together a finished product in advance of Wednesday’s season opener at New York against the Knicks.

Butler was putting his thumb injury to the test with jump shots after practice Sunday, but head coach Tom Thibodeau said the guard ultimately could be a game-time decision for the first game of the season.

It leaves the defense in flux, but Thibodeau refuses to hinge the team’s success without the ball on one person. It did seem clear, though, that opposing offenses had an easier time of it in the final two preseason games that Butler missed.

“Well, (Butler) is important, they’re all important,” Thibodeau said. “In this league, you can’t guard individually. It’s very difficult. You guard collectively. We need him, and we need everybody. We can’t rely on Jimmy to do everything for everybody. We can’t rely on Jo, we can’t rely on Taj (Gibson). It’s got to be everybody tied together, and so we can’t leave it to chance.”

In the final preseason game Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Bulls’ defensive weaknesses were exposed.

“There were a lot of good things offensively in the Minnesota game, a lot of bad things defensively, and so that needs to be corrected,” Thibodeau said. “When you look at the numbers from the preseason, you know, we played like a .500 team. So if we want more than that we have to put more into it.’’

That 4-4 preseason record gets thrown out the window now as the regular season begins this week.

“I feel we have done some pretty good things on both sides of the floor, we just have to be more consistent with it and sustain those good efforts for a longer period of time,” big man Pau Gasol said. “But we’re about to open things up and understand that we have a tough schedule to start off with -- seven games in 10 days, if I’m not mistaken. There are a lot of back-to-backs, and a lot of games on the road next month so it should be challenging, but it will tell us exactly where we’re at and it will force us to be on top of our game.”

Gasol might have as much to prove to Thibodeau as anybody since he only has had eight preseasons games to show what he can do defensively, as well as daily practices. Gasol said earlier in training camp that he wants to be on the floor at the end of games, but that will happen only if his defense measures up.

“Well, more or less he told us that he is going to try and get a feel for the game,” Gasol said of Thibodeau. “We have three really good interior players that he feels comfortable that can finish off games. He said he’s going to put the guys out there he feels more confident and comfortable to win that particular game. We have to trust his abilities and judgment, and work hard to deserve to be out there.”

That’s a far cry from earlier in camp when Gasol said that if he isn’t seeing playing time late in games then he doesn’t have the trust of his coach.

“Nah, I don’t pay any attention to that stuff,” Thibodeau said. “I’m always going to do what’s best for the team. It’s going to be based on performance, so that’s the way it is here.’’

Butler confident new deal will come together with Bulls

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
6:25
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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ST. LOUIS -- Jimmy Butler remained confident Friday that he and the Chicago Bulls will work out a contract extension prior to the approaching deadline.

Butler and the Bulls have until Oct. 31, the deadline for first-round picks heading into their fourth season, to come to terms. He will become a restricted free agent after the season if a deal cannot be agreed upon before the deadline.

“I think we’re going to figure it out,” Butler said prior to the Bulls' game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “My main focus is now of all time is to get healthy. If you’re healthy, you’ll get paid anyway. That’s all I’m worried about it."

Has Butler ever wavered about wanting to be with the Bulls?

“No, no, no, no.This is definitely the city, the team I want to be on," Butler said. "At the end of the day, at the beginning of the day, I want to be a Chicago Bull for as long as possible.”

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau commended Butler on how he’s dealt with the contract discussion.

“I think Jimmy’s handled it well,” Thibodeau said. “He’s allowing his agent to take care of the business side for him so we can lock into the basketball part of it. Jimmy has done a good job with that. I want him to continue on that path.”

Butler’s focus is getting back on the court. He sprained ligaments in his left thumb against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday and will miss his second consecutive game Friday because of the injury. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated next week and is uncertain for Wednesday's season opener.

“I don’t know,” Butler said regarding whether he’ll be ready for the season opener. “I really don’t. I wish I could tell you yes or no. I don’t want to lie. If I can, I definitely will. That’s for sure.”

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Derrick Rose seeking further progress in Bulls' preseason finale

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
1:12
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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Derrick RoseDan Lippitt/NBAE/Getty ImagesDerrick Rose is just trying to get better each day as the regular season closes in.
ST. LOUIS -- Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose gets one final preseason tune-up Friday before embarking next week on his first regular-season game in nearly a year.

For Rose and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, their final preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday represents another chance for Rose to work toward regaining his form.

“Just keep making progress,” Thibodeau said after the team’s shootaround at the Scottrade Center. “The conditioning is a big thing. He just needs to continue to work at that. I like where he is. He’s gotten better each game.”

Rose made significant strides in the Bulls’ last two games. He played a preseason-high 28 minutes against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday and scored a preseason-high 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday.

Rose’s focus Friday continued to be his timing. He has averaged 15 points on 47.2 percent shooting, 3.7 rebound, 2.6 assists and 20.6 minutes in seven preseason games.

“Just, of course, working on my timing,” Rose said. “Just know that we can get better every day. We had a great shootaround. Hopefully, when we come back later on tonight we have the right concentration for a good game.

“It’s always a positive. You always get a positive out of the preseason no matter [what] because it’s early. Like, who cares? You can always improve. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re on the road to improving. Take every day seriously and get the most out of every day.”

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Butler's thumb swelling down, still questionable for opener

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
12:42
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Powers By Scott Powers
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ST. LOUIS -- Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler’s left thumb has decreased in swelling, but his status for next week’s season opener is still in question, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Friday.

Butler suffered the injury during the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets. An MRI revealed he sprained ligaments in his left thumb. He will miss his second consecutive game when the Bulls play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.

“He’ll be reevaluated next week,” Thibodeau said after the team’s shootaround at the Scottrade Center. “The swelling is down. That’s a good thing. But it would be premature at this point [to say anything] other than I know the doctors are going to look at him again at the beginning of next week.”

Thibodeau was preparing both ways for Butler to be in and out of the lineup when the Bulls open their regular-season schedule against the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

“Whatever it is, it is,” Butler said. “If they tell me he can go, great. If they tell me he can’t go, next guy get in there, get the job done.”

Butler was having a strong preseason prior to the injury. He averaged 15.8 points with a 58.8 shooting percentage, 8.6 rebounds and 26 minutes in six preseason games. He scored 29 points against the Atlanta Hawks on Oct. 16.

Joakim Noah vows improved rebounding

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
3:29
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – Just because it is the preseason does not mean the Chicago Bulls have not taking the results seriously.

Red flags have been raised with the team’s rebounding as the Bulls have been beaten on the glass 314-312 in seven preseason games. Opponents also have 81 offensive rebounds to the Bulls’ 74.

It wasn’t expected to be this way, not with the 7-foot Pau Gasol joining the 6-foot-11 Joakim Noah in the frontcourt this season.

“Obviously, you’re always concerned about that,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Your defense and rebounding and keeping your turnovers down are three things you have to do to put yourself in position to win. You eliminate the ways you beat yourself first. Those are areas we locked into.”

While Thibodeau has yet to spell out what his chief concerns have been during training camp, no doubt the rebounding remains one of the biggest issues yet to be resolved.

“The turnovers have gone way down, the challenge of the shot has been there, the contact has been there,” Thibodeau said. “But then the fight for the ball hasn’t been there. You have to do all those things. That’s all part of establishing a multiple effort mentality. Part of that is your toughness and conditioning and discipline. Those are things we still have to work on.

Gasol leads the Bulls with 8.3 rebounds per game in the preseason. Noah has averaged 6.8 rebounds in the six preseason games he has played, well off his career mark of 11 rebounds per game, but he is also playing reduced minutes in the preseason.

“I think it will get better,” Noah said after practice Thursday. “Obviously, it’s been a concern right now of ours, but I think it’s going to be better and better.”

Noah, who is coming off offseason knee surgery, wouldn’t blame his minutes for his low rebounding totals. “I would never make excuses for rebounding,” he said.

So what is the answer?

“The answer is, it will get better,” he said.

If there is one chief focus heading into Friday’s preseason finale against the Minnesota Timberwolves at St. Louis, getting after rebounds figures to be it.

“That’s what Thibs does, make sure that we’re ready for every second we’re together, whether it’s a meeting, watching film, whether it’s practice, a preseason game, staying in the moment,” Noah said. “We need this [last game]. We need this as a team.”

GMs like Bulls' current/future coaching options

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
3:05
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The NBA's general managers have spoken and the Chicago Bulls are being thought of in high regard for the 2014-15 season.

In a poll at NBA.com, the league’s general managers were asked about a wide-range of topics, including who will win this year’s title (San Antonio), who will be named MVP (LeBron James) and who made the best offseason moves (Cleveland).

While the Cavaliers are considered the most likely team to face off with the Spurs in the NBA Finals, the Bulls were the second choice to win the Eastern Conference, holding 25.9 percent of the vote. The Cavaliers got 70.4 percent.

Joakim Noah was not only selected as the league’s best defensive player, with 35.7 percent of the vote, he was also voted the league’s third best overall center behind Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol.

As for coaching, Tom Thibodeau was easily voted the coach with the best defensive schemes, earning 92.9 percent of the vote. The Bulls were obviously selected the league’s top defensive team, getting 85.7 percent of the vote.

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Final dress rehearsal looms for Bulls

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
2:29
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- If he has even the slightest spare minute of time, the sense is that Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will use it to figure out a way to make his team better.

So if there is court time available and another NBA team sitting at the bench on the opposite side of the arena, you can bet that Thibodeau will take advantage of it.

With the Bulls’ final preseason game approaching Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves at St. Louis, Thibodeau isn’t looking at it as an opportunity to take it easy on his starters and see what his bench can give him for 30-plus minutes.

“In general, you don’t want to skip any steps; this is your final test,” Thibodeau said after practice Thursday. “You can use it, and as you do with every game, analyze the things you’re doing well, the areas you need to lock into to improve and clean up.

“I don’t want us to get wrapped up in 'This is the last preseason game' or 'The start of the season.' Just concentrate on exactly what is in front of you, what are we trying to get accomplished today and lock into that. If we do the right things and put the right amount of work in, things will take care of themselves.”

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Lottery criticism too much of a gamble

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
3:07
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The NBA voted down the plan to restructure the league's draft lottery, and Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau elected not to gamble with his own money.

Asked about the vote to not change the current lottery system, which some point to as encouraging teams to tank games to improve their draft odds, Thibodeau started to answer and then stopped.

"The thing that I don't like about it is," Thibodeau said before pausing. "It just seems like … I think it’s bad when …"

Thibodeau then wrinkled his face.

"No, I don't know," he said. "I guess it's fine. I'll try to save my money."

That money Thibodeau was trying to save was a potential fine for being critical. So he gathered himself and started all over again.

"Nah, I want what's best for the game," Thibodeau said. "I guess there's always flaws in any system you use. But I think the intent of trying to do your best is important for the game. When there's so-called incentives to lose, I don't think that does anyone any good.

"I think we have a great game. It's in a great place. We have to keep striving to keep it there and to improve it. I do like the fact they're looking at those type of things. I have a lot of confidence in [commissioner] Adam [Silver]. I think he's going to be terrific, so whatever he decides, I'm good with."

Now there's a lesson on turning a negative into a positive.

The Bulls haven't been in the draft lottery since 2008, when they ended up with the No. 1 overall pick despite a 1.7 percent chance to nab the top spot. They used the pick on Derrick Rose.

Thibs forced to consider minutes limits

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
2:31
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau will not commit to a minutes restriction plan for any of his players, especially when there still is a week of preparation time remaining before the regular season begins.

Yet, with Derrick Rose returning from essentially a 2-year absence and Joakim Noah coming off knee surgery this offseason, Thibodeau will be forced to take a road lesser traveled for him: Keeping playing time to a reasonable level.

“We’ll just see how it goes,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve got some guys where it’s a situation where they need to work, they need to play. But they also need to do what they can handle. It all plays into it.”

With the Oct. 29 season opener at New York fast approaching, Thibodeau no longer seems as high-strung about the preparation process as he did earlier in camp when he didn’t feel the team was coming together fast enough.

“We’re not there, but we’re moving in the right direction,” Thibodeau said Wednesday. “We all have to do more. It’ll be here before you know it. Every game reveals something to you. I think we learned a lot from the Cleveland game (Monday). It was good for us.

“There was a lot that happened: back-to-back, an injury (playing without Jimmy Butler), minutes restrictions. That tells you everyone has to be ready. And you have to find a way. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to know what they have to do when they get out here.”

Noah continues to insist that his knee continues to get better and was asked if he experiencing any pain.

“Nope; none at all,” he said. “In the beginning, I was a little bit more uncomfortable, I was a little limited. I still have to get my strength back; I have to get the strength back in my leg. I’m just trying to manage practicing, playing. But overall I’m happy with where it’s at.”

He also knows he doesn’t figure to be ready to go from tip off to final buzzer by next week.

“There’s a plan,” Noah said. “We’ll just take it day by day and see how it feels, see if there are any setbacks.”

Thibodeau might like to get the most out of his players physically, but he isn’t blind to Noah’s situation. One major hurdle cleared was having Noah play in games both Sunday and Monday.

“He’s a work in progress,” Thibodeau said. “I think he’s starting to feel better. You can see his timing is coming around. For him, that was his first back-to-back. That was good. He has to work at it.”

Thibs prepared if Butler can't go in opener

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
2:13
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- While the Chicago Bulls continue to operate on the premise that Jimmy Butler will need a week for his left thumb injury to heal, coach Tom Thibodeau will move forward as if he won’t have one of his top defenders for the season opener.

Butler injured his left thumb in the first quarter of Sunday’s preseason game against the Charlotte Hornets. An MRI on Tuesday confirmed that he has sprained ligaments in the thumb on his non-shooting hand.

If Butler remains on his one-week timetable, he would be ready to play in the Oct. 29 season opener at New York against the Knicks. Thibodeau will believe it when he sees it, though.

“Obviously, I’d prefer to have him, but if we don’t, we don’t,” Thibodeau said after practice Wednesday. “We have more than enough. Next guy step up, get in there, get the job done. That’s why you have 14 guys. You prepare for everything.

“An injury can happen at any time. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to be ready. Even though you may not start off in the rotation, when that time comes you have to be ready. I think we have the type of guys that will be ready.”

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Thibs: LeBron 'up there with all-time best'

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
9:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Tom Thibodeau does not believe it's fair to try to compare LeBron James to other players at this point in his career. After all, James is still just 29 years old and doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. But that doesn't mean the veteran coach can't heap some heavy praise on James and his prolific, all-around game.

[+] EnlargeTom Thibodeau
Greg Bartram/USA TODAY SportsTom Thibodeau is just 2-8 against LeBron James as a head coach.
"Obviously, what he's done has been great," Thibodeau said Monday before the Bulls' game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. "I think it would be unfair to him to judge him now. I think when you're judging greatness, it's having the ability to judge it over a long period of time. Until he's done, we won't know ultimately, but he's right up there with the all-time best. When you look at it, to do it year after year, he doesn't miss many games, he's been very durable. He's a great competitor, and he makes his team win."

Thibodeau would know. Although he had some success against James during his time as an assistant with the Boston Celtics, Thibodeau is just 2-8 in the playoffs against James as a head coach. He knows James has the rare ability to make a play even when the defense can be drawn up perfectly.

"He's a great player," Thibodeau said. "[There's] not many things he hasn't seen. Sometimes you could do it perfectly, and he still can hurt you. The idea is you want to make him work for what he gets, but you can't do it at the expense of leaving everyone else open. The challenge when you're guarding somebody like that is you're helping with him, but you're also getting back to the other guys. It requires multiple efforts and challenging shots and finishing your defense. When you're dealing with a star that passes the ball like that, what it does is it makes everyone else a lot better. He tests you in every different way."

James' test is one Thibodeau knows the Bulls must be prepared for this season. Although he does not like seeing him on the opposite end of the floor, Thibodeau appreciates how good James has become. He knows that in order to be the best, the Bulls are eventually going to have to get through the best player in the league.

"If you're a competitor, I think that's what you want," Thibodeau said. "When you're facing great teams and great coaches, that's what makes it challenging. We know it's not about one guy -- it's about the team. Same for us. When you're facing a great team, it requires you to make sure that you're committed to playing as a team. If we stray off and try to do it individually, we'll be in trouble."

In listening to Thibodeau speak about James, it's also clear the domineering head coach is appreciative of how James goes about his business. Thibodeau likes that James thinks for himself and does what he believes is right. That's why he never seemed shocked James came back to Cleveland for the second time earlier this summer.

"The one thing about LeBron is he stays true to himself," Thibodeau said. "I don't think he gets wrapped up in criticism or praise. He does what he thinks is right. He made a bold decision to leave. He made a bold decision to come back. But ultimately, he did what he felt was best for him and his family. I've got great respect for him as a competitor."

Rose enjoys challenge of LeBron, Cavs

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
10:41
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Derrick Rose does not like talking about one-on-one matchups. Like his coach Tom Thibodeau, he knows games are won and lost as a team. But that doesn't mean Rose didn't have a little extra motivation to perform well Monday night against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"It's basketball," Rose said. "I've been competing my whole life. I'm used to the stage, I'm used to playing against very good people, very good talent, and that's all they got on that team is talent, so you know, when you play against them, you know you got to come out here and ball."

Rose and Thibodeau got a firsthand look at James' new running mate, Kyrie Irving, this summer, when the trio represented Team USA in the FIBA World Cup of Basketball.

"Kyrie, he's a young guy that's gotten better and better," Thibodeau said. "He's a star. He's a superstar.

"He played great for Team USA. He can shoot, he can break you down off the dribble, he can make plays. I thought his defense was excellent throughout [the tournament]. He did a really good job. He's right up there at the top of the league. There's not much he can't do. Obviously, handling the ball [and] pick-and-rolls. He can play off the ball, too. But he's a very good player."

While it was clear from Rose's play that he was more amped than usual for this contest, the former MVP said he's feeling good as he gets set for the regular season. Monday's game marked the second set of back-to-backs he has participated in this preseason.

"After every game, Jen [Swanson] always tells me I should feel like I always do [even] more," Rose said. "That's how I feel right now, even though I played the back-to-back. Both games were hard, [but] I feel like I could always go out there and play again. Just taking my time, listening to everything that they tell me to do and really listening to my body and conditioning my body -- that's key."

Noah enjoys being at Ohio State: Joakim Noah likes being booed. He enjoys playing the role of villain to fan bases throughout the country. He took more pride in that role than usual Monday night at Schottenstein Center, the home of the Ohio State Buckeyes, the team the University of Florida, led by Noah, defeated in the 2007 national championship. Noah admitted to looking up at Ohio State's runner-up banner that hung in the rafters.

"It's because we won the championship," Noah said of the boos. "And then we beat them in football. It's all good, though."

Noah also took pride in the fact that Monday's game marked the first pair of back-to-backs he has participated in this season, as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery.

"I feel good, and I feel like I can do more," he said. "I'm just happy. Compared to how I felt two weeks ago, I feel like it's just progressing, and that's a positive."

The last word: Noah, on Rose's 30-point performance: "It's big, especially with everything that he's gone through. He's the fastest guy on the court, by far. ... I like his mentality. He's aggressive, and I think we're going to be really good."

Rose's performance brings joy to locker room

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
10:09
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The most noticeable part of Derrick Rose's 30-point explosion was the impact it had on the rest of his teammates. The Chicago Bulls lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night, but you wouldn't have guessed it from the smiles that lit up their faces while they talked about Rose performing at the highest level again. They watched as Rose drove to the rim and knocked down jumper after jumper in the first half. They nodded in appreciation as Rose's cuts opened up the floor for everybody else. This was the man they've been waiting to see, waiting to play with since Rose tore the medial meniscus in his right knee. This is the man who can lead the Bulls to a championship. Most importantly, this is the man who gives them hope.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteDerrick Rose's vintage effort against the Cavs served as a reminder to LeBron and the league that he and the Bulls are going to be a force in the East if they can stay healthy.
"It [brought] up old memories, man," Bulls power forward Taj Gibson said happily. "Just a good positive thing to take from this game. Derrick looked great."

For the first time in almost a year, Rose looked once again like the player he used to be before his initial ACL injury in the first game of the 2012 playoffs. He looked like the type of player who could put a team on his back and carry it to a different place. For the Bulls, watching Rose dominate offensively was like watching an old favorite movie for the first time in a while. His play brought up the confidence level of everybody around him.

"You're talking about an MVP-caliber player," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "So it makes the game easy for everybody. He's getting easy baskets in transition, he's attacking in the pick-and-roll, he's in the paint making plays, so it's a positive."

It's also a large negative for the rest of the league if Rose can continue turning back the clock like this. While there is no such thing as a statement game in October, Rose offered up a large reminder to LeBron James and the rest of the league that he and the Bulls are going to be a force in the Eastern Conference if they can stay healthy.

Rose didn't want to come out and say this was his best preseason game to date, but it was obvious after listening to those around him speak: This wasn't just Rose's best game in the preseason, this was Rose's best game in a while. He wanted to send a message to James and Kyrie Irving, the player who started ahead of him on Team USA this summer, that he can still be the dominant force he used to be.

"The team is feeling more comfortable with me being on the floor," Rose said. "Feeling comfortable with me just picking my spots, getting people involved and just trying to pick spots in the game where I can really affect the game."

Rose is such a transcendent talent, and so important to the Bulls' future, that he has the ability to affect more than just the game. On this night, he affected the entire organization's mood. The relief from Bulls personnel throughout the building was palpable. This was the man they hoped they would see again. This is the man who can deliver them to where they want to go.

"It feels great," Bulls center Joakim Noah said of Rose's performance. "Just seeing him move like that is big for our team. He's definitely one of our big guns -- he's our big gun -- so just to see him play like that, I know how hard he's worked to get there. I just feel like if we just keep improving we can do something special."

Derrick Rose takes next step in Bulls win

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
11:36
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
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CHICAGO -- Taj Gibson spoke for the entire Chicago Bulls' organization Sunday night when he described what it was like to have Derrick Rose back on the floor to close out games as he did in a win over the Charlotte Hornets.

"It's a dope feeling," Gibson said. "We know who's going to take the shot. Either Pau [Gasol], Derrick. We got Joakim [Noah] making solid plays. We got guys that's back in the rotation, and even with Derrick, he's stepping in and taking that strong midrange when he needs to take it, and it showed tonight."

Rose's stats were solid against the Hornets, but out of his 27 minutes played, it was the final 7:22 that were most crucial. That's because that marked the first time in almost a year that Rose was on the floor to close out a game. While the former MVP has downplayed the significance of being on the floor late for preseason games, it's clear his teammates and coaches were thrilled to see him back in the pressurized, late-game saddle on Sunday. They know they need him out there late and were happy to see his stabilizing presence on the floor as the final minutes wound down.
[+] EnlargeRose
AP Photo/Paul BeatyDerrick Rose was on the floor in the fourth quarter Sunday -- a welcome sight for fans, teammates and coaches alike.

"I think it's a positive thing," Gasol said. "It's great that we can have him down the stretch. He also gets used to playing those minutes where every decision is important. So, yeah, it's nice to have him on the floor."

Rose still has a lot of rust in his game. It's noticeable on his drives to the rim and in some of his shots, and it will likely take months before he consistently feels like himself again with the ball. But the mental aspect of Rose's return is huge for both him and his teammates, and even if Rose isn't the same player he once was (right now), he's still a talented point guard who can create space -- and shots -- for his teammates. His ability to cut into traffic makes his teammates feel better about their chances.

That's why head coach Tom Thibodeau has to be pleased with what he saw Sunday. It was the best all-around performance his team has had in the preseason, and it ended the way he's hoping many games this season do -- with the ball in Rose's hands as the contest is coming to a close.

"The intensity's different," Thibodeau said of the fourth quarter. "The defense is different. You have to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the team, understand how they're defending you, what you can take advantage of, what the openings are. Who are they rotating to? How far off are they? And then you want to make them pay. Usually for a player like that, any time you put two [defenders] on him, there's somebody open. And he's got to have the ability to read that and make that decision quickly. I think that comes back by being out there."

Rose took another small but important step in his latest comeback Sunday. He closed out a game with the rest of the starters (minus the injured Jimmy Butler) and remembered what it was like to take pressure-packed shots -- and make them. Thibodeau has said many times the past few months that the best thing Rose can do to knock the rust off is play.

Although Rose's confidence is still a work in progress, the confidence his presence breeds in those around him can't be overstated. The Bulls are hoping a lot more nights in the future end like Sunday did -- with Rose on the floor and a victory in hand.

Thibs ready to shift into regular-season mode

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
12:31
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Derrick RoseGary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Bulls are still monitoring Derrick Rose's minutes as the end of the preseason draws near.


CHICAGO -- By coach Tom Thibodeau’s timetable, the last of the Chicago Bulls' preseason games will take place Sunday night at the United Center against the Charlotte Hornets.

Sure, two more unofficial games remain before the team’s season opener at New York on Oct. 29, but Thibodeau will treat Monday’s contest at Cleveland and Friday’s tilt against Minnesota as if it were the real thing.

“The last two, you sort of narrow it down to get more toward your rotation,” Thibodeau said after shootaround Sunday morning. “But usually, the first five or six (games) you’re trying to get a look at different combinations and different people, that sort of thing.”

While that means minutes for key players -- especially starters -- are expanding, point guard Derrick Rose remains a unique situation. He still isn’t playing key fourth-quarter minutes as evidenced by the fact that he was on the bench when the Bulls rallied for a victory Thursday against Charlotte.

But there are also limited chances to get Rose's minutes to where they need to be.

“Yeah, to me, (with) his injury, he is different,” Thibodeau said. “He’s been out for basically 2 years. We just have to continue to be patient. He’s feeling better and better, so that’s a good sign, and he’ll be fine.”

Rose played 21 minutes Thursday, but every other starter played more, including workhorse Jimmy Butler, who played 31 minutes and still hit the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. In fact, two reserves -- Taj Gibson and Kirk Hinrich -- played more minutes than Rose, while Tony Snell matched the former MVP’s playing time.

“Just keep building,” Thibodeau said when asked if Rose will get more fourth-quarter minutes soon. “We’re not fixated on, ‘Is it 21 minutes, is it 28 minutes, is it ...?’ Just keep building. Just keep moving forward. I think that’s the best way to approach it. We want him to make sure he feels good about it and we’re going to go from there.”

Perhaps as big of a concern for the Bulls is that they are running out of time to get into a flow among so many new faces that include Aaron Brooks, Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic.

“There is always jelling to do; it’s basketball,” Joakim Noah said. “You need to build that chemistry and I think it’s going to keep getting better and better.

“Every time you step on the court, every time you step together as a team it’s good ... if you put the work in.”

Asked about Thibodeau’s tactic early in training camp to ramp up preparation because the team wasn’t where it needed to be, Noah gave a crooked smile.

“It doesn’t matter; right now that’s not my focus,” Noah said. “My focus is just being as ready as possible as possible for the regular season and taking it day-by-day. I’m excited. I think we have a very good group, guys who work hard, guys who are focused on the right things, so I think it’s going to be great.”

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Taj Gibson
PTS AST STL MIN
22.0 1.0 1.0 28.0
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.0
AssistsA. Brooks 6.0
StealsD. Rose 2.0
BlocksJ. Noah 3.0