Strong like Thibs
The sun is still low in the season, but the Bulls are already standing near the top of the league. As I write this the Bulls are 12-2, and even after a prolonged offseason, the team looks sharp. The lockout schedule may be tailor-made for the Bulls (young and deep) but the team looks like they never stopped playing from last season. And they’ve done it with basically the same team that brought them to the Conference finals.
The Bulls are playing stifling defense. They’re limiting opponents to 83.8 points per game, and teams are only shooting 41% from the field against them. Despite some early shooting difficulties, Rose looks better than he was last year. But what strikes me about the Bulls is how much they still play as a team. Every man on this team matters. Not only because they have talent up and down the bench, but because of how they gel. Every day someone new steps up. It’s obvious that this is a team that pushes each other to get better. Their evolution into an elite team streams from coach Thibs and his intense practices and tape sessions. But even more so, it comes from players and their trust and a bond between each other.
After John Lucas III torched the helpless Wizards for 25 points, he said in his postgame comments that he would do anything for his teammates. “I just want to have my teammates’ back,” said Lucas on a podcast with Sarah Spain & Nick Friedell. “This is one of the best teams I’ve ever been apart of. With the chemistry and the way everyone gets along. You usually have cliques, but this team, all 14 guys, hang together.”
That’s the type of attitude that’s pervasive throughout the locker room. Each player wants to play as hard as they can because they don’t want to let their teammates down. It’s a team mentality. Rose doesn’t scare teammates into playing well like maybe Kobe would or even Dywane Wade, they play well because they don’t want to let each other down.
After the Bulls beat the Raptors over the weekend, Taj Gibson told the Chicago Tribune this:
“No matter how many minutes you play, no matter how many touches you get, no one should play harder than you. No matter how many minutes you get, you’re supposed to lay it on the line no matter what.”
Attitude and chemistry will set this team apart from the Heat. This team knows that every player would go to war for one another.
They walk into every game knowing that they do it as a team. It’s a rare for a team to be this close at the professional level, and even rarer considering it’s carried into another season.
Coach Thibodeau has his players believing in his system and believing in each other, and with Rose hobbled by a nagging toe, we’ll see how far this team can go.