ST. LOUIS—Putting 106 points on the board, even in a preseason affair against a short-handed foe, must feel like manna from heaven to Bulls fans.
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau could nitpick about the team’s 18 turnovers (as always, 13 or fewer is his preference) and the slow start to the game (Memphis started out on a 11-2 run), but let’s be realistic: Derrick Rose’s presence has opened up a world of new possibilities for this squad. We know Thibodeau won’t allow the team’s defense to slip and although the more balanced, faster-paced new offense is experiencing an adjustment period with Rose’s return, the Bulls’ depth and multitude of options gives them a chance to do some special things.
“Oh yeah, for sure,” Rose agreed, when asked if he thought the Bulls could be a more potent offensive bunch. “With the weapons that we have and the personnel of this team. We have guys that have been in the gym almost the whole summer, if not the entire summer, and dedicated their summers to improving this team.”
Rose’s 13 points and three assists (the second consecutive night he notched those total; the point guard added four rebounds and three steals, while cutting his turnovers down to a single miscue) weren’t representative of his impact, as his ability to create against the Grizzlies’ set defense and make things happen in transition already display glimpses of his pre-injury form. But unlike the past, his teammates aren’t simply watching the former league MVP, as the Bulls’ slightly revamped offensive strategy necessitates the involvement of others.
“Whoever gets it,” said Rose, that alone a difference from the past. “If Jimmy or Lu gets it, my job is to run the lane, get wide. It depends on how the play is going to be ran—sometimes even spotting up for the open jumpers. It’s just trying to get used to each other, get used to this new offense of pushing the ball.
“As far as the team, it’s the way our offense is,” he went on to explain. “We run a lot of ‘C-sets,’ where it’s almost like a San Antonio set, just reading how the team is defending you and we’re reacting to it, and for us, it’s something we have to learn because Thibs really wants us to put it into our offense, but it’s going to take a little time.”
Carlos Boozer led the Bulls in scoring with a quiet 16, All-Star small forward Luol Deng had 13, many coming via the free-throw line and Jimmy Butler chipped in with a dynamic nine points. Off the bench, Taj Gibson continued his strong start with 15 points, while veteran floor general Kirk Hinrich matched that number while running the show for a second unit that has the makings of a dangerous group, validating Thibodeau’s praise.
“I didn’t think the starters came out with the type of intensity that’s necessary. I thought the bench came in and did a good job. I think we went 15-4 to start the second quarter and that gave us a lift. Taj, Kirk did an outstanding job and Mike Dunleavy, and Tony [Snell] and ‘Murph [rookie Erik Murphy],’ they functioned very well. So that was good and then, the third quarter, we were able to get out a little bit more, got some easy baskets and that gave us a little bit more of a cushion. I thought the ball moved and I thought that helped us get to the line."
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Still, while Thibodeau’s concerns about the beginning of the contest and other details are valid, even at this early juncture, perhaps Boozer summed it up best, telling CSNChicago.com, “We’re still getting better, man.
“I know we’re winning and we played very well tonight, but we’ve got so many things that we’re going to get better at as we keep moving forward, so there’s a lot of things that we’re very excited about. But a lot of teaching points, too. We’ll look at the tape and defensively, we’re still making strides. Offensively, we’re still getting used to each other,” he continued. “But for the most part, we’re right where we should be and where we are, we’re hungry to get better and that’s a good place to be. It’s always good to win and get better, so it’s good to get other guys experience in a new system. Our starting five is obviously very experienced in a new system, but we have guys coming off the bench who are inexperienced in our new system. Mike’s getting used to it, our rookies are getting used to it and obviously we’ve got a great point guard in Kirk, helping our second unit out.
“We’re on the right path. We’re getting better every day.”
That’s all that can be asked for right now.