DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Forget about Nate and Marco.
With the Chicago Bulls stumbling out of the gate, many fans have pointed to the fact that Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli are no longer in Chicago as a reason why Tom Thibodeau's bunch can't find its way.
Both were solid for the Bulls at times last season, especially Robinson in the playoffs, but their absence this year is not a major reason why the Bulls are struggling. It's amazing how short people's memory spans have become. Fans have been frustrated by the early play of Mike Dunleavy, Jr. over his first week as a Bull. He can't find his shot and his defense has been poor -- but do they not remember how bad Belinelli was to start last season? He struggled to pick up Thibodeau's defensive schemes and couldn't knock down many shots. Belinelli averaged just 5.2 points last November and didn't stay on the floor very long.
Over time Belinelli became more comfortable with his role and began to understand what Thibodeau wanted from him. The safe money is on Dunleavy doing the same thing. He's been a solid pro for over 10 years in the league -- and he's shown the ability to knock down 3-pointers when given space. Thibodeau thinks the free-agent acquisition is starting to find his way.
"I thought he played really well in the Philly game." Thibodeau said. "And so that's a good sign. I thought his shots were good, his decisions were good, his screening was great. Actually, I thought our bench played well so that's a good sign. I think he'll find his rhythm. I think he's still learning but I think it will come but I liked the way he played in the Philly game."
As for Robinson, there's no denying the Bulls miss his ability to create shots. But with Derrick Rose coming back, Kirk Hinrich signed for another season and Marquis Teague still in his rookie deal -- there weren't many minutes to go around for the diminutive point guard. Plus,for as great as Robinson was during the postseason, he also struggled to run the offense at times and could also drive Thibodeau crazy with his shot selection.
Robinson and Belinelli are solid players but they were always one-year band-aids for a cap-strapped team that was waiting for Rose to return.
What's next: The Bulls face off against the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night.
The last word: "All that stuff is big for us, getting off to a 1-2 start, being out of sync, not getting it down right now. We have to go in there and get it done more than anything, regardless of opponent. Certainly this is a premier opponent and it will be tougher, but we need to get a win." -- Dunleavy on facing the Pacers