The Bulls didn’t think they’d find themselves with just one win heading into their fifth game of the season, but there’s no going back as the team looks to push forward tonight against a Utah Jazz team they won’t be taking lightly.
The Bulls' 97-80 loss in Indiana on Wednesday dropped them to 1-3, the franchise’s worst start since the Bulls began the 2007-08 season 0-4. The Bulls won’t finish 33-49 like that team did, but head coach Tom Thibodeau understands that his team must continue to improve and work on itself, regardless of record or opponent.
“The thing for us is, we’ve just got to concentrate on our improvement, to be more consistent for 48 minutes,” he said at this afternoon’s shoot around at the United Center. “So there’s some things we’ve done well, and obviously there’s a lot of things to improve upon. But (we need) to be locked in to knowing our opponent well and to put all the necessary work into winning.”
Thibodeau knows plenty about the Jazz, who despite the winless record through five games, have competed in each contest despite a grueling start to the schedule. They were within one point in the closing seconds against Oklahoma City on opening night; they were tied on the road against upstart Phoenix with 22 seconds remaining; and they led the Rockets in the fourth quarter before losing by 10.
Behind young rising starts Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors in the frontcourt, alongside swingman Gordon Hayward, Thibodeau said his group isn’t underestimating the Jazz because of their record.
“You look at a guy like Kanter, almost six offensive rebounds a game, and Favors is just as tough,” Thibodeau said. “And then you look at Hayward and he’s a terrific player, (Richard) Jefferson’s been around a long time. (Jamaal) Tinsley is not a guy you can overlook. John Lucas, (Alec) Burks, a guy like Michael Harris, who a lot of guys don’t know is a very good basketball player.
“(Rookie Rudy) Gobert is very long, they’re huge, so the rebounding is something we’re concerned with. They move without the ball very well, they’re down Trey Burke right now but they’re a talented team and they play tough.”
Through the first week-and-a-half of the regular season both the Bulls and Jazz have averaged 45 rebounds per game, though Utah holds a slight edge in rebound differential thanks to Favors (10.2 RPG), Kanter (9.2) and Hayward.
It will be a tough matchup for the Bulls, but Joakim Noah said tonight is just one step of a process that has the Bulls working toward their eventual goals.
“It’s definitely a slow process. Everybody has something to say right now, everybody has their opinions. It’s all good. The truth is in the work,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep grinding, keep working and when it starts clicking for us, when our stride comes, it’s going to be good.”
Noah reacts to Bulls-Pacers comments
Noah said he had heard comments Indiana’s Paul George said regarding the Bulls’ era being over, and that it was the Pacers’ time until the Bulls took it back.
But in classic Noah form, he refused to take the bait and kept George’s comments in perspective.
“It’s all good. It’s game five of the season,” Noah said. “It’s a long journey. We’ll see those guys again.”
When asked if he considered the Pacers a rival — something teammate Derrick Rose said he did not during the preseason — Noah said that anyone competing for the same goals the Bulls is considered a rival.
“They want the same things we want. And any team that wants what we want, I don’t really like at this point. So right now it’s not about them, it’s not about anybody. It’s about us. We’ve got to get better. That’s our mindset, and it starts with tonight.”