Thibs picks Dunleavy to start over Hinrich

DENVER -- Mike Dunleavy, Jr. will take Jimmy Butler's spot in the starting lineup. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau made the annoucement before Thursday night's game against the Denver Nuggets.

"I just thought it through," Thibodeau said. "I like both guys. I don't want to disrupt the second unit. So it allows us to get back to our second unit."

It also allows for Thibodeau to continue to use Kirk Hinrich late in games alongside Derrick Rose -- a lineup Thibodeau likes to use because both players can handle the ball and work well together.

"They're very comfortable playing off each other," Thibodeau said. "So I like the look that it gives us. It's a different look."

It's a look that Thibodeau says he spent a lot of time studying before taking the job. It's also the reason why the Bulls pursued Hinrich so strongly last summer. They like the fact that Hinrich and Rose can play pick-and-roll basketball with each other.

"When I got hired and I watched their games from the previous year I knew that from when I was in Boston and they played together, how they functioned on the floor together," Thibodeau said. "So I felt good about that and I knew they had a comfort level with each other, both from watching and coaching on the opposing team and also from talking to both of them. There's a big comfort level. Both guys are comfortable obviously with the ball and without the ball."

When it comes to Rose, Thibodeau expects his star point guard to play increased minutes over the next couple weeks while Butler recovers from a painful turf toe injury.

"We can pick up his minutes some," Thibodeau said. "But we're going to take it game by game just to make sure [and] see where it is."

Shaw praises Bulls, isn't concerned about Rose: Nuggets coach Brian Shaw doesn't believe the Bulls will have much of a drop-off without Butler on the floor. That's because the NBA lifer knows that Thibodeau has done a great job of preparing his team.

"I think regardless of who they have playing -- there are a few teams that have a solid system in place," Shaw said. "And it doesn't matter who plays, they just plug in the next guy and it works. [Gregg] Popovich in San Antonio is that way and Thibodeau's teams in Chicago are that way. One guy goes down ... but they're so versed at the way they defend and that's where they hang their hat on their defense. That it doesn't matter if Butler's in there or not. You have to be able to score against this team. You have to take the shots that are available. You have to try and strike before their defense gets set."

As for Butler, Shaw knows the Marquette alum is just starting to hit his stride in the league.

"I think any coach in the league would love to have a player like Jimmy Butler," Shaw said. "Because I don't think that any opposing coaches game plan to stop him. But he impacts the game in so many different ways; it's almost more dangerous to play against somebody like him because just his defense and effort. And then when you pay too much attention to Rose or Boozer or some of the other guys he kills you stepping out and hitting the timely jump shot, a strong drive to the basket, getting an offensive rebound, starting the break. So he's a good, solid player. He's young, he's up-and-coming, he's very confident right now and I think he's going to be in the league for a long time."

Shaw mentioned during the preseason that he had spoken to Rose about his former Orlando teammate Penny Hardaway. He didn't want the former MVP to make the same mistake that Hardaway made early in his career by coming back too quickly from a knee injury last season. He doesn't sound surprised that Rose has struggled to find a rhythm early on, but he is convinced the 25-year-old will get back into a groove soon.

"I think what happens when you've been out with an injury for as long as he was, when you first come back you're so strong," Shaw said. "And your legs are so fresh that everything goes well for you. And then I think that it settles down, it balances itself out.

"I know I always think about when I played and I came back from an injury -- maybe that first game you have a great game, and you feel good, you feel like you're in shape, and then the rust from the time that you actually missed kind of catches up with you. And I think that that's part of it, but I don't have any doubt in my mind that he'll find his groove. I think that watching him, he hasn't lost any of his explosion or his athletic ability. If anything, he looks as explosive or more explosive. It's just a matter of getting the rust out and it's only 10 or 11 games into the season at this point, so it's still a long way to go and he'll get it going. Just hopefully after tonight."