<
>

Even Rose entitled to have an off night

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Tom Thibodeau has a reality check for any Bulls fan who expects Derrick Rose to perform at the top of his game every single night.

"He's not going to play great in every game," Thibodeau said after Tuesday afternoon's practice.

As usual, Rose scored 31 points in Monday night's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, but it was his 10 turnovers that grabbed the attention. Rose was mad at himself after the game for being so careless with the ball, but his coach came to his defense after looking at the tape.

Thibodeau didn’t excuse the turnovers, but he wasn’t going to make too much of a rare misstep from his star player.

"I thought he was aggressive early," Thibodeau said. "He had some turnovers early that I think slowed him down a little bit, but when you handle the ball as much as he does there's going to be ... I thought he was trying to make the right plays."

The bigger issue on a lot of fans' minds is that Rose and a few of his teammates have played so many minutes that they appear to be tiring lately. It's a criticism Thibodeau has heard, but hasn't paid that much attention to.

"To me, I don't want him to pace himself," Thibodeau said of Rose. "I want him to be a complete player. I think we're at our best when he's playing great defense. He's rebounding the ball, running the team, scoring, doing all that. And I think he wants that responsibility. I think the best players in the league all choose to do that. He's gotten better and better. It's a pretty high standard when you look at what he did [Monday] night and you don't view it as one of his better games."

As for the rest of the team, don't expect the veteran coach to cut their big minutes any time soon.

"We all play the same amount of games," Thibodeau said. "Every team in this league is going through the same thing. And you look at the teams that are playing well right now and you've got guys playing big minutes. So that's part of managing the league, and preparing yourself for what you're going to be facing. You can find an excuse every night if that's what you choose to do. But I think the special teams continue to get better as the season goes along. And the teams that are playing their best and are the healthiest at the end usually perform well in the playoffs, so that's what we have to strive towards. And we can't stop concentrating on our improvement."

First half struggles: Thibodeau wants his team to come out with more of an edge at the beginning of games. In their past three contests, the starters have come out flat.

"That's the thing we have to take care of," Carlos Boozer said. "Having a loss, sometimes it will shine a big light on what you're doing wrong. The last few games we've had slow starts, so losing that game last night shined that big light on us and [we] know we have to correct it. So we got in today, we talked about it. We watched the tape. Coach put up some great stats about our recent games. Something for our starters that we have to do a better job [in] those first quarters."

Thibodeau agreed.

"That's the third game in a row that that's happened," he said. "We were fortunate to bail ourselves out in the previous two. And we couldn't make the comeback [on Monday night] so we dodged bullets against Memphis and Milwaukee and this one we couldn't get out of that hole. So we have to change some things and the way we approach it. And hopefully we can make those corrections."

The last word: Boozer, on his message to fans about his struggles since the All-Star break with Joakim Noah on the floor:

"Tell 'em to stay tuned. Tell 'em we're doing fine. Tell the fans we're doing fine. Hang in there with us. We're going to be just fine. Tell 'em I said that, quote from CBooz."