Bulls' biggest issue hard to pinpoint

Derrick Rose leads the NBA with 5.3 turnovers a game. Howard Smith/USA TODAY Sports

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Like a classic car that has been in the garage for decades, the Chicago Bulls offer lots of potential with the major problem of deciding what to fix first.

Coach Tom Thiboeau is standing at that garage door with his grimy work shirt on and a box of tools at his feet, rubbing his chin as he decides the best plan of attack. If there is any certainty it is this: He's going to get extremely dirty before things get any better.

Asked what stood out when watching the game film of Wednesday's loss at Indiana, Thibodeau pointed out the inability to close out a close game early in the fourth quarter, the inconsistency with playing inside-out basketball and an inability to rebound.

The very next question he was asked was what issues are common to the struggles over the first four games and "the big thing" he referenced was turnovers.

Does Thibodeau have a tool box big enough to fix it all?

What was common in his answers to both questions was the play of the defense. Against Indiana, the game was close late which gave a sense of improvement, but the takeaway seems to be that the Bulls remain stagnant.

"The big thing is the fourth quarter, we're up two with seven to go," Thibodeau said. "We've got to close out a game. We have to play a lot tougher in the fourth quarter. The rebounding was a big thing. We have to finish our defense better. And we have to play inside-out. With a team with size, you have to move their size and try to attack them before they get set. If they get set, you have to move them."

Improved defense, ball movement and the ability to finish what they started continues to be the theme of the early going. It was especially evident in a defeat at Philadelphia last Saturday when the Sixers rallied for the victory.

Turning the ball over certainly isn't helping the defense at the other end. In the early-going, the Bulls are tied for 22nd in the NBA with 18.5 turnovers per game, while their own 21.5 assists are 15th in the league.

The struggles in both departments can be directly related back to the guy who handles the ball the most: point guard Derrick Rose. After just four games in his comeback season, Rose has 21 turnovers to just 15 assists, collecting just two assists against the Pacers on Wednesday.

Nobody in the NBA can top Rose's average of 5.3 turnovers per game, and in fact, nobody in the league was over 4.8 (before play Thursday).

Aside from Joakim Noah and the subject of his fitness level, Thibodeau continued his pattern of not singling out anybody.

"It's our team's turnovers to assists," Thibodeau said when asked about Rose specifically. "Prior to (Wednesday), we had been very high in assists. We had 15 assists (Wednesday). When things aren't going well, the intentions are good to try to lift us up individually. But you have to remember to do it collectively and not try to do too much individually. You need to make plays for each other and function well as a team. And that's where we have to continue to grow."

Reading between the lines, it sure seemed as if Thibodeau had Rose on his mind.

At the core of the Bulls team is considerable talent, so they wait with optimism that they will overcome things like a lack of early chemistry and nagging fitness issues.

"It will come," said Luol Deng, who has contributed his own issues with a .067 shooting percentage from 3-point range. "I think it's early in the season. We're just missing shots. We're not shooting a great percentage. It's rhythm a little bit but the more games we play we'll be comfortable with each other a lot more.

"There will be certain sets that we're going to run a lot more that we will be better at, but our worries are just defensively. I think offensively it will come, it's just you just play so many games you have the opportunity, whether you're not shooting well, eventually you're going to shoot well. Defensively it's playing a lot harder and finishing games. That's what our concern is."