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Bulls 'a different team' without Derrick Rose

CHICAGO -- Russell Westbrook said what everybody has been thinking since last May regarding the Chicago Bulls this season without Derrick Rose.

"It's a different team," Westbrook said.

In the next breath, the All-Star guard paid the Bulls a compliment they've been getting throughout the young season.

"But they're still are a good defensive team," he said. "They've still got their same group of guys that's been here, so they're still a good team."

There's no question the Bulls are different without Rose on the floor, but players and coaches around the league still have a lot of respect for the way coach Tom Thibodeau has prepared his team for the season.

"The Bulls are very good," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said after Thursday morning's shootaround. "There's a bunch of things that they do well; one is they play hard. They play extremely hard. Their offense is run with great execution, they set great screens, their bigs are very skilled. Their defense is sound, they play hard, they help each other, they don't give a lot of easy buckets and they contest shots. But they're one of the best teams in basketball and coach Thibs, he does a good job with the group."

Brooks understands it was a huge blow when Rose went down, but like many around the NBA, he doesn't expect the Bulls to take as much of a hit as many fans think. That's because Thibodeau has defense and intensity ingrained into the DNA of his team.

"Like every team in this league, (if) you're losing one of your best players you're not going to be as good," Brooks said. "But the way they play, it never changes. They play with great energy, they play with great hustle and toughness and they have good players. Coach Thibs does a great job -- when you lose one of the best players in basketball, it's impossible to be a better team. But they're managing it through all the work they're putting in, and just knowing Thibs, he coached me a couple times as an assistant coach, he's a great coach, a worker and he gets the most out of everybody he has on his team."

Martin a fan of Rip: Kevin Martin is still adjusting to his new role with the Thunder, but his offensive game probably isn't going to change much at all. He's a shooter and always will be. The veteran admitted Thursday that one of the players he watched to learn more about the game was Bulls guard Rip Hamilton.

"I used to watch a lot of (his game) because I knew I was going to have to score without the ball when I first got to Sacramento playing with Mike Bibby and Chris Webber and how they passed the ball," Martin said Thursday. "So I watched a lot of film on Rip in his Detroit days when he was scoring 20 points on 11, 12 shots night in and night out. So he was definitely a big idol of mine."

The last word: Kevin Durant, on why he believes Derrick Rose will come back better than ever from his knee injury:

"He's a hard worker, he works extremely hard and he's one of those guys (who) has a lot of faith in himself, and I can tell that he has a lot of confidence in what the guys are doing around him, as far as rehabbing and guys helping him out with his knee. If guys go down with knee injuries that are serious, I always hope they are coming back stronger and better, that's just me. Playing with Derrick on the USA team and getting to know him a little bit over these last few years, I just hope and pray that he comes back like he was when he left or even better (than) when he left. He's going to be a lot stronger, and I've been watching videos online, you can see how hard he's been working ... so I'm looking forward to him coming back. It's going to be good for the game."