A failure to get in sync on both ends of the court has led to a slow start from the 3-3 Bulls, whose 92.3 points per game is better than just one NBA team, the Utah Jazz at 86.9.
Rose didn’t practice Wednesday because of the hamstring strain he suffered Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers and it’s possible that he might not play in Friday’s game at Toronto.
Getting Rose back into the flow again is just one of a number of the team’s issues that also include Luol Deng's poor shooting from 3-point range, Joakim Noah's struggle to find the proper fitness level after missing most of training camp and Jimmy Butler's search for his role in the offense.
“Whatever your circumstances are, you make the best of those,” coach Tom Thibodeau said, trying to downplay the chemistry issue. “It gives other guys an opportunity to get more work in and that’s the way we approach it.”
With Rose trying to do too much, too soon, in his return, one experiment to Thibodeau’s liking has been to pair Rose with Kirk Hinrich in the backcourt.
“They play very well together,” Thibodeau said. “They play off each other extremely well. It allows Derrick to get off the ball some. It gives your opponent a different look. They’re used to Derrick off the dribble and now he’s catch-and-shoot. Kirk can do both. So I think it’s a big plus.”
The bench options aren’t as readily available as they were in previous years, though, with some inexperience among the reserve unit. Backup center Taj Gibson agreed that the bench isn’t as deep as it has been in recent seasons.
“I think so far [it isn't], but we have young guys that really haven’t gotten a shot just yet,” Gibson said. “We have a lot of talent, especially in our young guys that are still waiting for an opportunity to get out there and provide some help for us, but it’s a long season. We still have to get out the kinks, but it’s exciting that guys can learn. It’s all about learning and getting better.”
Right now, though, it’s the starting unit that needs the improvement.
“It comes along with the NBA season, really,” Gibson said when asked if health issues have derailed the team’s chemistry. “We’ve been going through this the last four years, three, four years now, and guys just got to be ready. We’ve got a lot of talent, especially young guys on the bench that just have to be ready. We’re getting a lot of good reps in practice, just have to step up.”
With progress still needed in both the health department and the on-court product, the Bulls will try to take advantage of things like the current three-day break between games, their second such break in two weeks. Their next three-day break won’t come until just before their Christmas Day matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.
“Sometimes the schedule is going against you and sometimes it’s in your favor,” Thibodeau said. “I think the fact we have three days, which is a little unusual, is good. You want to maximize getting work and rest in and preparing. It was an opportunity for us to get some extra practice in, which we did. Derrick needed rest so it was good for him.”