CHICAGO -- Carlos Boozer said what everyone was thinking Monday afternoon as players and media walked around the United Center floor for the first time in early May. Things felt much different without Derrick Rose in attendance.
"It's weird," Boozer said after Monday's practice. "It's a weird vibe. He comes in every day, though. He comes in every day. He's attacking his rehab like a monster trying to get back and then he comes out and supports us when we're scrimmaging, when we work hard. He's out there watching us, shooting hoops a little bit. It's good to see him in the gym, but it's a big difference not having him on the floor with us, you know?"
The Bulls got a glimpse of what the foreseeable future would be like Monday as they practiced on the United Center floor, instead of the Berto Center, in advance of an event with season ticket holders later in the day. Unlike most practice session at the Berto Center, Rose was not in attendance. It was a fact that was hard not to notice for all in attendance.
"It's crazy," Bulls forward Taj Gibson admitted. "Because usually just hearing him say small things like, 'Let's push. Championship.' Small things just to encourage you every day. So not having him is a big effect but we understand that he's pushing through, his recovery is doing great, we see him every day going hard. Right when we are practicing, he's on the sideline going hard with us, doing his rehab. So the whole team is pulling for him and we know he'll be back soon."
The Bulls' new life WR (Without Rose) starts fresh on Tuesday night in the preseason opener against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Taj is the leader: Heading into just his fourth season in the league, Taj Gibson is still learning new things, especially as it pertains to playing the center position. But as the most tenured remaining member of the popular Bulls' Bench Mob, Gibson knows his actions and words are being taken more seriously than ever by his teammates.
"It's crazy because they're actually listening to me," Gibson said with a laugh. "Especially on D. I'm real vocal now being that I play the five and four. I'm real vocal, guys are really listening to me and helping me out and it's been great."
Gibson acknowledged that he feels as a veteran on a team with so much turnover he feels a responsibility to help his new teammates.
"Yeah, because this is the fourth year I've been here," Gibson said. "I've been around, I know the scheme of things, so it's my job to make sure I help the guys out and learn the best way possible because it's going to be a long season. We're going to need everyone on this team to step up and I'm just doing my job helping guys in whatever they need to be helped with."
As a newly minted vocal leader, Gibson has might have given coach Tom Thibodeau one of his most impressive testimonials to date.
"Everybody has been listening to me from day one," Gibson said. "But the way I'm growing as a player, just calling out plays and seeing defensive sets, and seeing offensive sets and seeing how they're coming at me so fast nowadays and how quick and responsive I am to it is great. It's showing that basically everything Thibs has been teaching me has been working."
The last word: Veteran center Nazr Mohammed when asked if the Bulls are a potential playoff team:
"Oh definitely. It's funny because as a guy on the outside looking (in) last year I was a guy who looked at the team and was surprised how many games they won without Derrick. Now that I'm here, I see why. You got to give a lot of credit to the coaching staff, you got to give a lot of credit to the guys, the guys are just focused, the coaching staff is focused and precise and we know what we're going to do. It's a great team atmosphere so things like that breeds winning."