DEERFIELD, Ill. — After a three-hour session Monday at the Berto Center, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau’s voice had a game-like rasp, while point guard Derrick Rose remained on the floor to seemingly launch even more post-practice jumpers than usual.
The two men might verbally express their concerns about the Bulls’ early-season struggles differently, but both made it clear that change is necessary for the team to even think about approaching their lofty expectations and ensure that an undefeated preseason doesn’t linger as a team highlight.
“I worry about it all the time. You have to change it. You have to put the work into changing it. Your mindset has to change. I want to get away from the notion that we’ll be okay. ‘We’ll be okay; we have a lot of time.’ That’s not the mentality you can have if you want to be a good team. You have to correct things immediately. You have to put the work into it. You can’t hope it to happen. You have to make it happen. And we need everybody doing it. We can’t rely on a certain two or three guys to do everything. Our entire team is needed. This isn’t a Derrick issue. This is a team issue and we have to correct it,” Thibodeau explained.
“As I said in the preseason, you want to build the right habits. You know what you need in the end. I think it’s important to strive to do that each day in the season. When you start with the mindset, ‘I’m going to pace myself. We’ll be there in the end.’ I haven’t seen that work yet. I know that teams that get after it every day, those are the ones that are successful in the end. When you study all the championship teams, you won’t find any that were pacing themselves.”
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Rose concurred: “[Thibodeau] has been doing that the whole season, even in preseason. It’s up to us to go out there and play the games the way he wants us to play, and that’s to be aggressive, play with an edge and we’ve just got to work on it every day. That’s just something that we’ve got to work at as a team, not individually. Individually, you can work on your game. But as a team, as a whole, we’ve just got to put out a better effort.
“We’ve just got to come in here and keep working on our chemistry. It’s only three games. Everybody, I guess, is looking at it like its 30 games in because of the expectations of this year. It’s only three games in. I think we’re going to be fine, but we’ve just got to be more aggressive on both sides of the ball,” he continued.
“It’s just bringing that aggression to both sides. On the offensive end, if they’re overplaying and playing a certain way, we’ve got to make sure we’re looking at the basket, and do what we normally do and how we score the ball. We’ve got to take advantage of certain things like that and defensively, it’s really picking up people full court, pressuring the ball and making it hard on every possession.”
According to both player and coach, Monday’s marathon session was a step in the right direction.
“It was good, man. We really got up and down, scrimmaged a little bit and worked on all our plays, and executing all our plays,” Rose revealed. “We scrimmaged a little bit. That’s something we rarely do, especially in Thibs’ practices. Really just drills. But we got after it today, and I think everybody felt good about themselves and how they performed in practice.”
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Thibodeau added: “You want to maximize your time. We had a lot of guys come in yesterday to watch film and work individually. Today was a good team practice. We got a lot of work done. We had good intensity. We have to keep building on that. We need everyone to practice… I thought the effort was good and the concentration was good. We just have to strive for improvement each day.”
The Bulls’ next game, Wednesday night, will certainly test whether they’ve made the necessary adjustments, as they will head to Indianapolis to take on the currently-undefeated Pacers in the team’s first Central Division matchup.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” said Rose, who previously said that he doesn’t consider Indiana a rival. “If we don’t come out with the same aggression like we do in practice and what we’ve been talking about, we’re going to get our butts whipped up there because they’ve been playing great basketball. We’ve got to come together and we’re on the road. Usually, when we’re on the road, that’s when we focus.
“Our next game is a big game because it’s the next game. It’s not because we’re playing Indiana or who we’re playing. We’re just anxious to get back out there and to prove ourselves,” he went on to say. “It is kind of some urgency. We’ve just got to be aggressive. I think we’re not aggressive. Last game, we should have won that game, but we let a big lead slip again and it came back to bite us.”
Thibodeau also cited both the Bulls’ sacrificing their lead in the Sixers’ loss and how well the Pacers, who his team swept in two exhibition games, are playing.
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“Indiana is tough. They’re playing well. They play hard, play great defense. They’re an inside out team. It’s a physical game. We have to play for 48 minutes. I thought the first half in Philadelphia the guys did a lot of good things. I thought we played loose with the lead. And then you’re playing with fire when you do that. We didn’t close out quarters well. Hopefully we’ll learn from it,” the coach said.
“If you don’t play this game with an edge, you’re going to have a problem. You can’t feel good about yourself when you get a big lead. I say this to you guys all the time: 10 points in the NBA can be made up very quickly. One minute can get you 10 points. It happens a lot more than people realize. You let your guard down and start trading baskets and get loose; you’re putting yourself at a big disadvantage.
“We want to be on the attack at both ends. Attack on offense. You also have to attack on defense,” he added. “I’m concerned with the fact our defense isn’t in place as well as our offense. The one thing I think our guys are doing a good job of is sharing the ball. The ball is in the paint. We haven’t shot the three well yet. I think we will. We have to get a rhythm on it. But the ball in the paint has been very good. Points in the paint, good. Fast-break points, good. But we can’t rest on defense. I want to get it up quickly. I want to score and play with pace. But we can’t neglect defense.”