Progress is the name of the game for the Bulls right now, as difficult as that might seem to do with leagues best record. But even as their starting backcourt of Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton remains out, not only does the team continue to win games, but the guard duo looks to be on the mend.
Derrick was better today. He did part of practice. We just have to have him keep making the progress that he is and hopefully hell be healthy soon, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who described the reigning league MVPs health status as day-to-day and wouldnt speculate as to whether Rose would play in Saturdays home game against the Raptors, whom the Bulls defeated Wednesday in Toronto. Hes been running in the water. Hes going to do some running later today.
As for Hamilton, Thibodeau revealed that the 13-year veteran shooting guard was a full participant in Fridays practice at the Berto Center.
Hes moving along. We havent done contact with him yet so that will be the next step, Thibodeau said after the session. Day to day. Always a possibility. You know me: Im optimistic.
The Bulls didnt have Hamilton last season, so with most of the squad returning from last season -- Hamilton, rookie swingman Jimmy Butler and point guard Mike James are the only new additions -- adjusting to life without the banged-up former All-Star hasnt been different. However, although Rose played in 81 of regular-season 82 games a year ago, the Bulls have figured out how to win games without their superstar, currently suffering from a strained right groin, in the lineup this season.
We know what we need to do to win. We feel like if we can play good defense, get back in transition, win the rebounding contest, we have a pretty good shot at winning. said Joakim Noah. Derricks a great player, so the game is obviously a little bit different if hes not in there. Injuries are part of the game and were a no-excuses team.
Were growing as a team, he continued. Last time around this time, I was coming back from the injury, so I feel healthier than I have in a long time. I feel great. were a confident group and being able to play for something big is special.
Added Butler: I think weve got a lot of great players. Weve got enough parts that when one players down, everyone just kind of picks up the link that he was. John Lucas III has been playing incredible, hitting huge shots in the fourth quarter. C.J. Watson has been playing super-aggressive.
Its like youre picking up Derricks absence and Rips, and youre just adding it to the other players games and just putting it on their backs.
Of Lucas, the third-string point guard turned fan favorite, Thibodeau said: Hes got to run the team, make the right decisions, play to his strengths and understand what his teammates strengths are. He has done that. Ive known he can do that because I coached him before. He did the same thing for us in Houston. And hes a better player now than he was then. He stays ready. He handles his responsibilities well.
But no matter who steps up for the Bulls, their usual intensity, preparedness and focus can be traced back to Thibodeau.
First one in the gym, last one to leave. He lives, breathes this basketball stuff, said Noah. Everybody always says that Thibs breathes this basketball thing.
Im happy that hes my coach, he continued. Hes the most consistent guy Ive ever met in my whole life. Its the same thing every day. Since hes been here, I dont think our practices have changed one bit. Go over our skeleton of plays, go over defense, shoot. Thats it.