ST. LOUIS — Leave it to Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau to take the fun out of a trip to Rio de Janeiro.
When asked about his team’s upcoming trip to Brazil, where the Bulls will take on the Washington Wizards — they’ll leave Tuesday evening from Chicago and while the game is Saturday, both squads will have a slew of NBA-related activities — Thibodeau, even following Monday’s 101-87 preseason win over Memphis at the Scottrade Center, gave off an all-business, no-pleasure vibe about the excursion.
[RELATED: Journeyman James vying for Bulls' roster spot]
“I love being on the road like we’ve been to start the season. So, you’re in the hotel, you’re traveling. You have to build those habits and so, it’s a good opportunity for team-building. We’ve been together now for a long time. It’ll continue. There’s a lot of stuff and activity going on, on a trip like that,” he explained, starting off on the right note. “But it’s also a great opportunity for us to represent the league and continue to build, and for us, I think it’s critical for us to understand that it’s a business trip. We’re not going there to have a party. This is training camp for us.
“The important thing is to build winning habits and how you prepare is a big part of that, maybe the most important part — be mentally ready — and in this league, you can find an excuse every night,” the coach continued, actually going into his usual list of pitfalls he didn’t consider legitimate reasons for losing a game, apparently including overseas travel. “Whether it’s preseason, you’re on the road, you’re going to a foreign country, you’ve got a back-to-back, you’ve got four [games] in five [nights], you’ve got an early start, you’ve got a late start, the challenge is to be ready. Whenever they tell you you’re playing, be ready. Be ready.”
[RELATED: Bulls continue to develop, which is a good thing]
Well, maybe Thibodeau’s plan for the basketball side of things will be closely adhered to, but away from practices, the game itself and their league-mandated responsibilities, the Bulls can’t deny themselves the enjoyment of the sights and sounds of another culture.
“It’s going to give us some time to bond,” Derrick Rose said, initially sticking with the P.R.-friendly answer. “We haven’t been around each other in a long time because we have guys — like Lu, Booz goes back to Miami, I’m not even in Chicago; I go out to L.A. — we always travel and try to explore the world. But I think this trip is going to help us come together and bond as a team.”
When pressed about the issue — he was specifically asked about potential “distractions” in Rio — Rose, who was No. 1 in NBA jersey sales in Latin America for last season, despite not playing, got a mischievous grin on his face, but kept up the earnest act.
“What’s the distraction down there? What did you hear, man? Nah, it should be good,” he said. “We’re all professionals. If anything, we’re going to enjoy the trip and we know this is a business trip, and this is our time to really come together.”
Exactly how Thibodeau — if not teammate Joakim Noah, who should be back in action for the Wizards game after missing the Bulls’ first two exhibition contests with a strained groin — would have wanted him to respond.
Rose did comment on Thibodeau’s sideline demeanor compared to his behind-the-scenes, likely serene behavior in Berto Center practices. The inquiring media, which got a closer-the-usual view of the coach at Monday’s affair — the Scottrade Center, home of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, is configured differently than a typical NBA arena, understandably so since St. Louis has no professional basketball team — despite its best efforts, couldn’t get the former league MVP to slip up.
“In games or in practice? In practice,” Rose decided, after briefly pondering the question. “I think in games, he knows that there’s TV and people around. In practice, it’s just us, no cameras, no nothing, so it gets very, very crazy in practice.”
On a more serious note, Rose will have yet another point-guard test when he matches up with another John Calipari one-year pupil and fellow No. 1 overall draft pick, the similarly explosive John Wall of Washington, who also worked out with his trainer, Rob McClanaghan, in California this past summer.
“It’s always a test. I think every point guard that I face this year is going to be test, no matter how fast they are,” Rose explained. “It’s going to be a test for me because all of them are good and I’m just trying to test myself every game, and still be aggressive and know that they’re trying to come at me.”
The Wizards also feature big man Nene, a native Brazilian and impetus for the team to be invited to participate in the game.