James latest evidence of Bulls' depth

January, 21, 2012
1/21/12
11:10
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Mike James was playing in the D-League showcase a couple weeks ago. Now he's the backup point guard on the best team in the league.

[+] EnlargeMike James
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty ImagesMike James nearly posted a double-double while playing his first meaingful minutes of the season on Saturday.

Yes, life is pretty sweet for the grizzled NBA veteran right now. But the fact that James came in and dropped nine points and 10 assists in the Chicago Bulls' 95-89 win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night just reinforces the same points that everyone around town has been trying to make for several weeks now.

The Bulls have the deepest team in the league.

The type of team that is capable of doing very big things down the line, like winning a championship.

"Championship teams are not built on individuals," James said. "It's built on a team. It's not just the starters that make a championship roster. It's everyone from 1-15. So you have to be able to step in if your number's called, you have to be able to play your role and that's all I was trying to do."

That's all the Bulls have been trying to do all season, and they proved that once again on Saturday night. Playing without Derrick Rose (toe), Joakim Noah (ankle), Taj Gibson (ankle), John Lucas III (groin) and with Luol Deng struggling at the end of the game because of an inured wrist, the Bulls still had enough to pick up another win. While the ability to perservere without so much talent on the floor may surprise some critics, nobody in the Bulls' locker room seemed surprised at the team's ability to guy out another win.

"It's fun," veteran guard Rip Hamilton said. "When you know that your teammates got your back and you know that your teammates is going to support you through thick and thin, guys do a great job. When guys are hurt, they cheer for other guys that are out on the floor. In the NBA, that's hard to find, for guys to put their ego and their selfishness to the side. But on this team, everybody's willing to put all that B.S. aside to go out and win games."

That's one of the biggest differences on this team compared to their peers. The Bulls don't care how they win, just that they do. They don't care who scores, they don't care who plays, all they care about is finding another way to scratch out a win when people start to doubt that they can with so many people on the injury list.

"We'd like to be healthy, but I think we do a good job of stepping up when we have guys out," Bulls forward Carlos Boozer said. "We've got a lot of guys that can play on this team. I keep telling ya'll I think we're the deepest team in the league. We've got guys that are out and guys step right in."

Then Boozer gave yet another example of why his team remains so confident no matter who goes down.

"Look at Omer [Asik]," Boozer said of the Bulls' Turkish center. "At the last minute, [we] find out that Jo can't go. Omer comes in and has 15 rebounds, plays like a man in there. Get him in that rookie/sophomore game by the way. Vote for Omer Asik."

Pandering for votes aside, the Bulls are proving on a night to night basis why they are so dangerous. Tom Thibodeau's system runs with the type of precision that almost every team in the league envies. Yes, the Bulls are deeper than everyone else, but each player knows their role and they execute it almost every time they step on the floor.

"It's expected of us," Bulls point guard C.J. Watson said of his beloved Bench Mob teammates. "We don't get a lot of minutes but we have to go in there and do what we can when we can. Whenever somebody goes out, we have to step up and make the most of it."

They did that again on Saturday night. In the process, they also gave Thibodeau something that may be even more important than the win itself. They gave an added jolt of confidence that even if Rose or Gibson, or Deng, or whomever else gets hurt has to sit out for a while in this crazy season, they'll still find some way to get the job done each night.


Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Derrick Rose
PTS AST STL MIN
15.9 4.3 0.5 31.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Noah 11.3
AssistsJ. Noah 5.4
StealsJ. Butler 1.9
BlocksJ. Noah 1.5