CLEVELAND On paper, the Bulls first four games Wednesdays season-opening win over Sacramento, Fridays road opener at Cleveland, hosting New Orleans in the second half of a back-to-back and Tuesdays home game against Orlando seem like virtual cakewalks against young, inexperienced teams. Tom Thibodeau doesnt see it that way.
The ultra-prepared Bulls head coach praised the Kings explosiveness both before and after his team outlasted them, and coming into Fridays tilt, his message has been similar. One of his frequently-used mantras, know your opponent, has definitely taken affect.
I think theyve got a good team. They run a lot of pick-and-rolls. Kyrie Irving creates a lot for them and last game I know its early in the season but they were going out and running, Luol Deng told CSNChicago.com Friday morning, prior to the Bulls morning shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena. Anderson Varejaos playing well. Its a tough game. Its one that we want to come in and get. Early games are always tough. Teams are playing hard, teams are trying to prove that theyre better, players are trying to show their coach that theyre better and those games are tough."
Its no surprise Deng is familiar with Irving, last seasons Rookie of the Year and his fellow Duke product via New Jersey or Varejao, a veteran, who was playing for Cleveland when LeBron James was still in town and the Central Division foes faced off in the playoffs. But if he showed that much deference to a clearly-inferior opponent, albeit an undefeated one after knocking off Washington in their season opener Tuesday, imagine what Thibodeau would say, especially after the Cavaliers beat the Bulls in an exhibition game.
Theyre tough. Irving, hes an elite point guard, makes people better. Varejaos coming off a huge game. Tristan Thompson is tough. Daniel Gibson comes in off the bench. Dion Waiters, a young player, very explosive. Theyve got a lot of weapons, Thibodeau explained. We have a good read. You have to study and know your opponent, and most of these teams, they have a mix of young guys, older guys. You look at a guy like Varejao, hes been around a long time. Gibsons been around a long time. This is the second time around for Irving. So, whoever they have out there. Donald Sloan has a done good job backing up the point.
Theyve added good young players. Varejaos healthy this year, which is huge for them, and Irving is a very special player because of his ability to make everyone else better. Waiters is real crafty off the dribble, gives them a multiple pick-and-roll game. So, they have good young talent, he continued. Of course, Varejao has a unique skill set, brings a lot of energy. Thompson is high energy, athletic, tough and I think because of what Irving and Waiters can do off the dribble if their penetration is breaking you down, it sets up the second shot for them so they can beat you with the second shot. So, you have to have a multiple-effort mentality, pack the paint and you have to gang-rebound. They have a lot of good young players.
Thibodeau was especially complimentary of Irving, who appears poised to join the group of tremendous young point guards in the NBA, including the Bulls Derrick Rose. This game, just like the two teams battles last season wont feature both young stars on the court together at the same time, as injuries continue to ruin that potential matchup.
One, his demeanor. He seems like hes a very under control type of player, Thibodeau said about Irving. He plays with a lot of poise and I think his understanding of the game, so hes a special player and he showed that last year.