Perspective was the word of the day in the Bulls’ locker room after their impressive thrashing of the Indiana Pacers Saturday night at the United Center, putting a nice capper on a 2-0 start.
It is just two games, they said. Two home games at that.
Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade were quick to point out the schedule has been kind to the Bulls in the opening days, as their first two opponents were playing the back end of back-to-back sets as opposed to both teams having equal rest.
Jimmy Butler made sure to say he’s neither surprised nor impressed with how things have gone so far. He was around last year when the Bulls were second in the East in early January, 10 games above .500, and found themselves in the lottery four months later.
“Am I impressed? No. I know what we’re capable of. I’ve seen it,” Butler said to CSNChicago.com at his locker Saturday night. “On the outside looking in, you might be impressed but we have a long way to go. I think we can do so much better in so many areas but we gotta keep going in the right direction.”
When asked if he was surprised at how cohesive things look—which considering 10 new players and four new starters is a feat in itself—he wouldn’t allow his team that, either.
“No. Because I’ve seen it. I’m with these guys every day in the gym,” Butler said. “It doesn’t surprise me. It doesn’t surprise me when you see the work. You see it every day. Y’all don’t see it, so you might say 'I can’t believe they’re playing like this.' I see it.”
Anybody who knows Butler well knows he only respects hard work, so seeing the likes of Taj Gibson, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo working just as hard as he is something he didn’t see last year—which frustrated him to no end.
The three all mentioned the harder training camp, believing it’s led to more trust and better ball-movement, movement that wasn’t seen at all last year.
Even if predicting a 2-0 start wasn’t the boldest thing in the world, the way they’ve played is capturing attention. Averaging 29.5 assists being chief among the shocking stats.
“I’ve seen it in practice. It’s good to see it translate in the game,” Wade said. We’re just focused on winning ballgames. We’ve given ourselves the blueprint of what we need to do. Now the most important thing is how many times we get to that game?”
“It’s gonna be times where the ball isn’t gonna move much and we have to get back to that. We gotta move it but most importantly the way we defended makes me happy because it takes a long time to get on the same page when you have guys coming from different systems.”
Rondo was the only starter not to reach double figures but was arguably Saturday’s most impactful player, setting the table offensively and keeping Jeff Teague from finding a rhythm.
“We’ve been practicing 30 days straight,” said Rondo with a chuckle. “The chemistry is coming along. The key is getting to a good start.”
The Bulls are taking this act on the road for a quick trip to Brooklyn and Boston, as the Celtics will want a little payback for the Bulls pulling away on opening night. The players are just as curious to see if the ball movement and stout defense carries, with Wade saying they have to “take a picture” of how to play as the season progresses.
If things keep moving in this direction, especially considering the modest expectations, eyes will open.
“We just wanna keep the message of consistency and playing for one another,” Rondo said. “I don’t really care what the outsiders say, or opponents. At the end of the day, we have to play them. So message or not, you gotta face us, we gotta face you. At the end of the night, the best team wins.”
“The league is a game of runs. You do look around and say, they might be for real. We took care of home court. No big deal.”