DERRFIELD, Ill. – Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau continues to say that the uncertainty surrounding Derrick Rose’s return is not a distraction, despite the fact that his team's consistency has been all over the map in recent weeks.
After a stagnant effort against the Sacramento Kings earlier this month, the Bulls rebounded to crush the Golden State Warriors. They get back after it Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers after laying an egg on Thursday against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Thibodeau insists the inconsistency has nothing to do with the team going through a spirited five-on-five practice with Rose and then heading into games without him.
“It hasn’t been (a distraction),” Thibodeau said after Saturday afternoon’s shootaround, while Rose took extra jump shots. “We never knew when he would come back. That’s why we planned it out the way we did, to let him focus entirely on his rehab and the team to do their job and focus on improvement and our next opponent. That’s the way we planned it and that’s the way it’s unfolding and we have to continue to do that.”
It's one thing to be prepped for the possibility their team leader will not return. It's another to see him getting better each day while still not returning to action. Human nature might lead players to wonder what a Rose at 80 or 85 percent could give them as the season draws to a close and playoff seedings are being decided.
“We’ve gone through this,” Thibodeau said. “We went through it last year. This is nothing new. You’re never going to replace Derrick individually, never. Our way to do it is to do it collectively, so that hasn’t changed from the first day of the season. That’s what we have to do.”
Thibodeau was asked about the perception that perhaps the team is collectively wondering if Rose will ride to the rescue and bail out everybody.
“No, because, hey look, here’s the thing: If you [try] to find something, you can find something,” Thibodeau said. “Whether it’s his injury, someone else’s injury, the schedule, back-to-back (games), 15 road games in 20 games -- whatever it is -- there is something you can use (as an excuse).
“The good teams don’t do that. They find a way and that’s the challenge for us is to find a way. As long as we have, whatever we have, 10 bodies, 12 bodies, whatever it is we have, find a way. Everyone go out there and get the job done. Pull it out in the end, find a way to win. That’s what we have to do right now.”