DEERFIELD, Ill. — Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t bite.
When asked about Derrick Rose and Cleveland point-guard counterpart Kyrie Irving matching up for the first time Monday evening, when the Bulls host the Cavaliers at the United Center, the coach deadpanned, “I’m intrigued to see the Cavs against the Bulls.”
Later in the session with the media, following Sunday’s practice at the Berto Center, Thibodeau said Rose’s focus wouldn’t waver from his team responsibilities, as opposed to the individual matchup with his fellow former No. 1 overall draft pick.
“He does a good job of preparing. He knows he’s responsible for running the team. He’s a little further along than that. He has to make our team function well and he understands that,” Thibodeau explained.
Boozer’s Duke connections
Speaking of Duke—Irving starred for the Blue Devils in his lone season of college basketball—Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer said he plans on attending Tuesday’s Champions Classic at the United Center, in which Duke, featuring Chicago native Jabari Parker, takes on Kansas, which has top-ranked freshman Andrew Wiggins, the early consensus favorite to be the top selection in the 2014 NBA Draft next June.
“I’m going to be honest, over the years that I’ve been in the league, Chicago has always had a few different Dukies, whether it was Duhon or drafting ‘J-Will,’ so it’s great for us to have Mike and Lu and myself on the team. I’m excited to see the new team play,” Boozer said. “Obviously, Jabari has a lot of notoriety, especially being from Chicago, but being a great player. Looking forward to watching him and Wiggins get down, so it will be fun.”
Boozer also revealed that he was a reference for Thibodeau to be an assistant coach for USA Basketball, a role he began last summer. Boozer’s college coach, Mike Kryzewski, is the head coach of the national team.
“[Krzyzewski] was interviewing guys to make up his Olympic Team roster and I talked to him over the summer about Thibs, and said, ‘One of the things you have in common, other than just wanting to win really bad, is your preparation.’ Both of those guys prepare at the highest level on how to compete and win,” Boozer recounted. “’Coach K’ had that same regimen where he would watch tape for hours on whoever we were about to play against and Thibs is the same way. You see him over there watching tape with Derrick right now. He watches tape for hours. And it was great for them. Thibs was picked for the coaching staff and his defensive schemes work in any league, anywhere in the world, so we had some great conversations.”
Eastern Conference competitive early
Besides the undefeated Pacers, the only remaining team in the league with an unblemished record, the Eastern Conference is all jumbled up, with everyone other than Indiana having either three or four losses already, along with between two and four wins, so as inconsistent as the Bulls have been early on, that should put their struggles in perspective.
“It’s competitive, man. Everybody is finding their rhythm, everybody is finding their groove. Teams have obviously gotten better, and for competition purposes that makes it great for us. We look forward to that, we love to compete. It’s been a good start. It’s only a week or two, two at the most, so it will be an exciting season,” Boozer said. “Honestly, I don’t even watch other teams. I watch a little basketball at home, but I’m more just enjoying my time away from the game. I’m more concerned with us. Hopefully we’ll start picking it up a little bit, playing better basketball, and get some more wins. Our main concern is our team.
Thibodeau added: “We knew that a lot of teams in the East had improved. There are a lot of teams that are bunched up together right now. That’s not uncommon to start a season. I think Indiana has separated itself with its start. They’re playing at a very high level. You have to strive for improvement, get ready for every opponent. You can’t overlook anybody. I knew this summer, from just studying what was done in our division alone, that those teams had improved significantly. You have to be ready in this league.”