HOUSTON -- The Chicago Bulls aren't using the absence of Omer Asik as an excuse for their struggles off the bench, but that lack of production is as obvious as Asik's contributions to the Houston Rockets.
And those contributions will be on display Wednesday when the Bulls visit the Rockets and Asik, who is averaging 10 points and 12.3 rebounds.
"In a way you could say that (Asik's absence is the reason), but that's what happens in the NBA," Bulls reserve power forward Taj Gibson said before practice Tuesday. "Players shift around and move different places.
"We just have to adapt, we just have to move on and pick it up a notch. It's a long season, it's only ten games in but we look at all our statistics from last year to this year, it's a different team. The whole second unit's a different team other than myself, so guys are going to have to bring it because I know in Chicago that it's a high standard and our second unit is not cutting it right now and we have to improve on that."
Tom Thibodeau knows this, and that's why he said different rotations may be used in order to find a better chemistry. This shouldn't come as a surprise given how inconsistent the Bulls' bench, and even the starters not named Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, have been.
"The second quarter has been an area that we have to clean up," he said. "Offensively, we're starting the games very strongly. We're inside out, we're shooting a good percentage, we're scoring, but the tone of the game, it's not a defensive tone.
"And then in the second quarter we're being hurt in a lot of different areas, mainly the turnovers, so that's something that we have to get corrected. And then we're in a hole and we usually make a run to come back but it's difficult to overcome, particularly on the road when you're fighting a double-digit deficit."
After watching tape over the past two days, Thibodeau has noticed a few disturbing trends.
"We started off the season not challenging shots as well as I would like," he said. "I think we're covering the three point line better, but our turnovers, putting our opponents into the open floor has hurt us, particularly on the road so that's something that we have to change. And then we have to play for 48 minutes. Right now there's some good sequences, some bad sequences, but we have to be more consistent."
The Bulls are just trying to stay positive, but it's getting tougher to do so after so many up and down performances.
"We got just got to keep grinding," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "Playing the right way, playing for one another, we'll be all right."
Rocket speed: Thibodeau is concerned with teams going off offensively, but he has even more reason to be worried Wednesday night given that the Bulls have given up at least 100 points in four straight games. He knows it's going to be a challenge slowing down James Harden and the new-look Rockets' offense.
"He's a great player," Thibodeau said. "He keeps a lot of pressure on you, his skill set, his ability to shoot, his ability to put it on the floor. and then of course his ability to draw fouls. Then you combine him with (Jeremy) Lin in the backcourt and it's very dynamic. They run the floor extremely well, they play with energy, they shoot a lot of threes. (Chandler) Parsons is one of the most underrated players in the league, he's really coming on strongly and so is (Patrick) Patterson. Of course, Omer is Omer. He plays to win, he makes the team function well. There's so many intangibles that he brings to your team, so we know that defensive transition and covering the line is going to be critical."
Guarding Asik: After facing him in practice every day for two seasons, the Bulls know it will be a little strange to see Asik in a different jersey. Still, Thibodeau wants his players to focus on the bigger picture.
"It's not going to be an individual matchup," Thibodeau said. "It's our team against their team. We know what his strengths and weaknesses are and we're concerned with how we're going to try and make it hard on their team, not the individual matchup. Omer's a good player, did a great job for us, we're happy for him, but we know there's a bigger challenge than any individual matchup."
Having said that, Noah is still excited to see his old teammate and friend.
"We're two teams that are desperate for a win right now," Noah said. "I think Omer is a helluva a competitor, he's a friend of mine and I'm really happy for him. I think he's playing really well and I think it's important for us to come with the right mindset and try to get this win. But I'm happy for him."