DENVER—Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, for him at least, gave a bit of advanced notice about who would start in place of the injured Jimmy Butler in Thursday’s night game against the Nuggets: Mike Dunleavy Jr.
“I thought it through,” Thibodeau explained. “I like both guys. I don’t want to disrupt the second unit, so it allows us to get back to our second unit.”
That doesn’t mean that Kirk Hinrich, the other candidate to temporarily replace Butler as the Bulls’ starting shooting guard, won’t see major minutes alongside point guard Derrick Rose in the backcourt, while still managing his reserve floor-general role.
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“As I said when I got hired, I had watched their games from the previous year and I knew that from when I was in Boston and [Hinrich and Rose] played together, how they functioned on the floor together, so I felt good about that,” Thibodeau said. “They had a comfort level with each other. Both from watching and from coaching on the opposing team, also from talking to both of them. There’s a big comfort level, and both guys are versatile enough where they are comfortable with or without the ball.
“Sometimes it’s based on who is guarding whom. A guy can get comfortable sometimes guarding a pick-and-roll off the dribble, so you may want to put him in a catch-and-shoot situations or bring him around screens where there is a pick-and-roll off a live ball, things like that. A lot depends on the matchups and how they’re being guarded,” the coach added, getting into the specifics of the dual point-guard pairing, which was the Bulls’ starting backcourt during the 2009-10 campaign. “What I do like about it is you can go from a pick-and-roll on one side of the floor to a quick swing and a second pick-and-roll on the other side of the floor, and they play off each other really well so if there’s a defensive rebound and they bust out, throw ahead to each other, they are very comfortable playing off each other. I like the look that it gives us. It’s a different look.”
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As for Rose, Thibodeau said it’s possible that the former league MVP could also see an increased workload during Butler’s absence.
“Yeah, we can pick up his minutes some,” the coach said. “But we’re going to take it day-by-day to make sure where he is.”
It wasn’t necessary to ask whether All-Star small forward Luol Deng, the league’s back-to-back minutes-per-game leader, would see more playing time.