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Opening Tip: Thibs stands behind Rose

Derrick Rose has shot just 10 free throws in the first three games of the season. Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO -- Tom Thibodeau has made a lot of smart decisions since coming to Chicago three years ago to coach the Bulls, but his smartest one of all continues to be that he doesn't call players out publicly.

Most important, Thibodeau does everything he can to protect his superstar, Derrick Rose. Thibodeau still criticizes Rose and most of his other players during games, but he keeps those criticisms in-house. He protects his players from the spotlight, and he always makes sure to fight for Rose publicly whenever he gets a chance.

That was the case again Monday afternoon. After his longest practice of the season, Thibodeau made it clear he doesn't believe Rose is getting enough calls. The former MVP has gone to the line just 10 times this season.

"I'll say this," Thibodeau said after Monday's practice. "I don't know anyone who drives as hard as he does, nor as fast as he does. I think sometimes he's penalized for being a nice guy. I'll leave it at that."

Initially, Thibodeau declined to answer a question about Rose not getting to the line as much as he did in the preseason -- but he saw an opening and he took it. It was a wise move to make. Thibodeau knows his star is struggling, and he wants to help him out of his funk any way he can.

He went so far as to say after Saturday's game that Rose wasn't playing badly despite struggling in his first three games and turning the ball over eight times against the Philadelphia Sixers.

"I don't think he's playing poorly," Thibodeau said of Rose. "I think our team is playing poorly right now. But we have to straighten that out. When things are going well, they go well together; when things aren't going well, we do that as a team, too. So we have some issues that we have to correct. We've got to get in the gym and we've got to work our way out of it."

The part about Rose not playing poorly is laughable, especially since Rose himself said he wasn't playing well and took the blame for the defeat. But, as he so often does with his words, Thibodeau sent another message. He doesn't want the narrative to become that his 25-year-old star is struggling. He wants Rose to bounce back as quickly as he can.

Thibodeau understands that as long as he sticks up for Rose and Rose sticks up for him, he will be in good shape in Chicago, no matter how strained his relationship with the front office may be. That's one of the main reasons why fans never heard the veteran coach question Rose's decision to sit out last season.

The NBA is a star-driven league, and Thibodeau continues to protect his star. It's the smartest move to make for a coach who has seen it all in this league and desperately wants to win a title.

What's next: The Bulls practice at the Berto Center on Tuesday before flying to Indianapolis to play the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

The last word “It was good,” Rose said after the long practice. “We really got up and down, scrimmaged a little bit and worked on executing all our plays. [Scrimmaging] is something we rarely do, especially in Thibs’ practices. But we got after it today, and I think everybody felt good about themselves and how they performed in practice.”