DEERFIELD, Ill. -- A day after blowing a 27-point lead to the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng acknowledged that the team that racked up 112 wins the past two years -- and the depth that made them so effective -- is gone.
"I don't know what was expected," Deng said on Tuesday. "I don't know if you guys expected exactly the same bench. ... that bench, that Bench Mob was great, we won a lot of games because of them, but they're gone. Some of them are struggling with their (new) team, some of them are doing well, but this is a new team. Not every team is always going to be about a Bench Mob."
Deng said comparing this group to the bench from the past two seasons is unfair.
"I've been here nine years and every year has a different story," Deng said. "I think for this team there's going to be ups and downs, until we all get our chemistry right and start playing the way we want to play. We got to find our identity, but it's a totally different year. It's not fair to the guys that are here, the new guys, to be compared to the guys (from) last year. They're still getting used to it.
"Even the Bench Mob, the first year we had them, it took a while to get going and when we got going it clicked. And the year after that, last year, what helped us a lot was we had a lot of guys returning so we knew how we play and we knew how to play with each other. We're still learning how to play with each other."
That was clear considering Thibodeau only used three reserves (Taj Gibson, Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler) against the Bucks, who went on a 31-4 run to erase a Bulls lead that reached 27 points in the third quarter. The trio only played a combined 12:23 in the final 24 minutes.
Thibodeau has tried to shoot down the notion that the Bulls players just don't know how to play with each other yet.
"You can use that as an excuse, but you got to be ready," he said. "It's how quickly you can adapt to change. We can't keep using the excuse that we got all these new guys and they're still learning and all that. We got to get the job done. You've got to know what your job is and you've got to get it done."
"They just have to stay ready," Thibodeau said. "Just stay ready. That's it."
Thibodeau noted that Belinelli has been playing better in practice, but that wasn't enough to give him minutes against the Bucks.
"Right now we're just trying to figure how we can get our team to function well," Thibodeau said. "It's not any one particular thing. (Belinelli) just has to stay ready, keep doing the things that he's doing."
Thibodeau was almost defiant in some of his remarks and clearly frustrated with his team's inconsistency.
"We have more than enough here," he said. "We're fine."