Busy Schedule Hasn’t Hindered the Chicago Bulls’ Hot Start

January 19, 2012 – 9:45 am by Eric Schmoldt

Chicago Bulls head coach Tom  Thibodeau sat down this summer and mapped out what coaching would be like if the NBA missed one month of prep time or two months of prep time. The length of the lockout and now this hectic schedule, however, weren’t really part of the plan.

Thibodeau says plans to use shootarounds and film sessions more to set up offense and defense have been thrown out the window due to the busy schedule. The Bulls haven’t minded, starting the season 13-3 and winning 12 of their last 14. That said, they are currently plugging along without star Derrick Rose, who has a sprained toe and is day-to-day.

Tom Thibodeau joined ESPN Chicago with Carmen, Jurko and Harry to discuss Rose’s status, the play of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, Boozer’s defense, what the lockout was like looking back, the minutes of Luol Deng and what he thought when he first saw his team’s schedule.

What’s the status of Derrick Rose’s toe?:

“Basically it’s day-to-day and we’ll see how it goes. It’s a little bit better today. … We’ll see where we are. … I don’t think [we'll have to rest him throughout the season]. It’s more of a sprain than turf toe. We have to get the swelling out and hopefully it’ll be corrected. He’s had history with turf toe, so we’re concerned about that. … If there’s risk for further injury, obviously we’re not going to play him.”

We saw Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah on the bench at times late last season. Will that be the case this year?:

“Last year, Joakim was out for a significant amount of time, over 12 weeks, so when he came back, he was nowhere near where he was before the injury. … He went from playing in 36, 37 minutes a night, to where he could only handle 28, 27 minutes a night. Carlos had the turf toe, a pretty significant case. … But we are deep up front. … We’ll be finishing with Carlos and Joakim.”

Are they still feeling each other out offensively?:

“The thing that’s hard, I think, is if you go back to last year, both guys missed significant time with injury, so it was hard to judge. We were 24-5 when they started, so when people say that they don’t complement each other, I’m not buying that. The bottom line is winning, so obviously they’re doing a lot of things well for us to be winning like we’re winning.”

On Boozer’s defense:

“Carlos is the lightning rod. Whenever our defense breaks down, it’s Carlos’ fault. When you look at it, we don’t do anything individually, everything’s collectively. So when one person’s out of position, sometimes it can look like it’s him and it may not be. The one thing that he’s proven is that he’s a great defensive rebounder, which is a big part of your defense. So, are there things that he can do better? Sure, but there’s things that everybody can do better.”

What was the lockout like being away from the game?:

“You miss the game and probably the biggest thing — as you know, we have great guys on our team, great character — so you miss being around them. It’s a great group to coach. … I think that’s what makes them so special. That part I missed a lot. You miss the practice. Everything seemed out of sync. It’s almost like you’re on a clock and you feel like, OK, Labor Day comes and you expect all of your guys to be back where you’re working with your team. … Then training camp should be starting in October, that’s not there. … You just felt like everything was out of whack. I’m glad we’re back, so I’m not going to complain about the schedule.”

Luol Deng is playing a ton of minutes. Are you using him too much?:

“I think he’s at 38 minutes a game, or 38.5, and he’s shown he can handle those minutes. He stays in great shape, so that’s the way it is. We’re a deeper team than most and if he needs to get more rest, we’ll give him more rest. But he’s shown he can handle those minutes. I think his minutes are up one minute a game [from] last year. Is one less minute going to make a difference? I don’t think so.”

When you first saw the schedule, did you say, ‘We’re going to have to do something different’?:

“When we were planning in the summer, we were putting different plans together — OK, we miss a month, we miss two months, this is what we’ll do. Of course, when the schedule came out, the first thing you looked at was, ‘When are we going to practice?’ … Because of ’99, I knew we were going to have to maximize shootarounds, film sessions and things like that. And you do have to cut back on practicing. …  All those things factor in. When the schedule came out, it was a little bit concerning where, early on, we have 19 games in January, we just finished 14 in 20 days. I think we’ve played eight back-to-back games already. That’s a lot. The thing that was concerning was the amount of back-to-backs early on because we were counting on the shootarounds to be able to work on our offense, our defense, timing, spacing, your drill work, your scheme work. That’s sort of blown out the window.”

Listen to Tom Thibodeau on ESPN Chicago here (Interview begins at about 2:03:00)

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