DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Just because a mere four percent of the schedule has been completed doesn't mean the Chicago Bulls aren't moving forward with a sense of urgency.
A team with championship aspirations has stumbled out of the blocks and anybody even thinking about saying there is plenty of time to turn things around had better think twice.
"You have to change it; you have to put the work into changing it," Thibodeau said when asked if the current struggles are magnified because it's the start of the season. "Your mindset has to change. I want to get away from the notion that, ‘We'll be OK, we'll be OK. We have a lot of time.' "
A full 79 games remain. As the season moves on, there figures to be more lineup cohesion. Derrick Rose is still working his way back into form after missing all of last season. Adjustments are being made to the tweaks in the offensive approach.
All those are sound reasons for why the Bulls are 1-2, with that lone victory over the New York Knicks achieved only after a Rose floater over two defenders in the closing seconds. But because some of the Bulls' issues are also on defense, the coach had a little extra fire when talking with the media Monday.
"I would say this: You might have a point if this was the first year (learning this defense)," Thibodeau said. "But the core of these guys have been here for a long time now. I think that helps. It helps bring the new guys along a lot quicker. But it's a team-wide problem. This isn't a new guys problem. This is a Bulls problem. It's our entire team. And we have to correct it."
Defense isn't the only issue Thibodeau sees, just the one that he sounded most passionate about. The Bulls' new offense was supposed to take advantage of the team's shooting abilities, but the inside-out approach hasn't yielded much in the area of 3-point shooting.
Thibodeau is actually ecstatic with ball movement and offense in the paint, but when the offense is ahead of the defense, then Thibodeau's ire is stoked. He won't stand for anybody thinking that the defense will simply come around eventually.
"That's not the mentality you can have if you want to be a good team," Thibodeau said. "You have to correct things immediately. You have to put the work into it. You can't hope it to happen. You have to make it happen. And we need everybody doing it. We can't rely on a certain two or three guys to do everything. Our entire team is needed. This isn't a Derrick issue. This is a team issue. And we have to correct it."
If anybody isn't on board with the urgency issue, then they haven't been paying attention.
"He's been doing that the whole season, even in preseason," Rose said. "It's up to us to go out there and play the games the way he wants us to play, and that's to be aggressive, play with an edge and we've just got to work on it every day. That's just something that we've got to work at as a team, not individually. Individually, you can work on your game, but as a team, as a whole, we've just got to put out a better effort."
With four days between games, the Bulls went through a lengthy three-hour practice Monday. It started with a film session, but more than two hours was spent on the court, a rare occurrence since Thibodeau became the coach.
"We scrimmaged a little bit, which is something we rarely do, especially in Thibs' practices," Rose said. "Really it's just drills. But we got after it today, and I think everybody felt good about themselves and how they performed in practice."
On offense the Bulls worked on taking advantage of defenses that overplay on the ball. On defense, Thibodeau continues to stress a full-court approach, which can be taxing physically. That style of defense could help to explain why the Bulls are running out of gas late in games.
But just as with the slow start and expecting an eventual turnaround, blaming added energy expended on defense will only sound like excuses to Thibodeau.
"If you don't play this game with an edge, you're going to have a problem," Thibodeau said. "You can't feel good about yourself when you get a big lead. I say this to you guys all the time: 10 points in the NBA can be made up very quickly. One minute can get you 10 points. It happens a lot more than people realize. You let your guard down and start trading baskets and get loose, you're putting yourself at a big disadvantage. We want to be on the attack at both ends. Attack on offense. You also have to attack on defense."
Things won't exactly come easy for the Bulls as they look to emerge from a slow start. On Thursday they face another Eastern Conference power when they travel to Indiana.
"If we don't come out with the same aggression like we do in practice and what we've been talking about, we're going to get our butts whipped up there because they've been playing great basketball," Rose said. "We've got to come together and we're on the road. Usually, when we're on the road, that's when we focus."