Friday, March 25, 2011
Posted: 3:25 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
As the Bulls head down the regular-season home stretch and try to keep their hold on first place in the Eastern Conference, All-Star point guard Derrick Rose believes the team must concentrate their focus.
"Finishing on the right foot, making sure we finish positive. We dont want to take any steps back. Try to finish right. We should be playing our basketball right now, going into the playoffs and we should be playing with a lot of confidence," Rose emphasized as the team's primary goals. "Its hard. Right now, were just trying to keep things going. Were playing against good teams, were playing against teams thats fighting for their lives right now. Even against bad teams, theyre playing for their future. They want to let people know that they can play. Its hard, definitely, but I wouldnt trade this for anything."
In comparison to his first two seasons in the NBA--when the team sneaked through the back door to make the playoffs with a .500 record, garnering the eighth seed both seasons--the Bulls are sitting pretty, but don't expect Rose or his teammates to take their collective foot off the gas anytime soon.
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"Everybody on the team has stepped it up a little bit. The way people have been playingour bench has been playing great, giving us the leadpeople have been stepping up their game, a lot of people," said Rose. "That's what we need on this team.
"We know, especially on the road, its going to be kind of crazy. Youre going to get everybodys best and you kind of get used to it. You cant come out sluggish. It makes you play kind of hard and aggressive," he went on to say. "It makes you ready to play in the games."
Unsurprisingly, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has been the prime source of the Bulls motivation, using his vast coaching experience as a reference point.
"Youre never going to stop hearing it from Thibs. He always says if we want to be this team we say we want ourselves to be, weve got to put a lot more things into it and thats what we have to do right now, keep pushing ourselves. We cant be satisfied with where we are right now and weve just got to keep going and pushing each other," said Rose. "He always tells us stories about the Knicks Thibodeau was a New York assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy, when the Knicks and Bulls were fierce rivals, saying that they were in a situation where guys werent playing up or certain plays that they didnt call defensively in that gamea Knicks gamewhere a guy didnt follow an assignment. It cost them a championship. He always throws things out there like that and makes you think about it."
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Not so ironically, Thibodeau's last stop--Boston--has been on Rose's mind lately, too; not just because the Celtics are currently chasing the Bulls for the East's top seed, but because the defensive schemes of the two teams are similar, and not by coincidence.
"Its kind of weird, definitely weird. Hell say something about them, how good they are and it makes you think about it. Were kind of like the same team, where we both over-help on the defensive side. Usually, people do that in college. Thats not normal NBA defense, Ill say. Most of the time, NBA teams leave you out on an island and us, we just help everywhere and we depend on each other," Rose observed. "Theyve Boston been in tough situations before. They play well together, kind of like us. We just keep fighting. No matter how much were down, its going to be a tough game. Right now, were just trying to win it out. If us winning gets us into the No. 1 spot, were fine with that, but if not, well still be thankful that were in the playoffs."
According to Rose, Thibodeau uses his insight into a championship squad--he was on Boston's staff for the 2008 Celtics title team--as a further reminder that the Bulls have work to do before matching that feat.
"He doesnt bring the Celtics championship ring, but he always saysif were messing around at practice or somethinghe always reminds us, if we want to be that team, we cant be doing what were doing. We cant take any steps back. Weve got to be playing with an edge every single game," Rose recounted. "If you want to win, youll do it or separate yourself from all the other teams in the NBA. Weve got good guys on the team. Theyre winners. Doing extra stuff, like shooting after practice, shooting before practice. When you come into practice, having the right attitude, making sure that you dont mess up practice. You dont want to be the one that messed up a whole practice because you messing up that practice, theres other teams that are having great practices in the NBA and that can put you back a little bit. We just try to come in, work every dayespecially defensivelytry to work hard and try to learn each other better on the defensive side."
Rose joked about Thibodeau's lack of a social life, but underneath the humor shone through an appreciation for the coach's dedication.
"Me and Joakim Noah were talking about that last night. I never played for a coach that was that focused. Theres nothing else. He has no kids, no wife, no leisure time just to watch TV. Im dead serious. Theres nothing else but winning. I never in my life played for a coach like that," Rose quipped. "Hes healthy, were winning, he seems like hes enjoying himself, so Im fine with it.
"Ive never heard about Thibs being out eating anywhere or ran into him eating him anywhere, ordont you know when you in the restaurant, theyre like, Your coach just leftnever. Never. No matter what city were in. I wont see him until the next day. Ive never been around a coach thats like that. Never. Or never met a coach thats like that I'll say," he continued. "He can keep it going. As long as were winning, he can keep it going."
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.