SAN FRANCISCO -- The Bulls haven't had a problem getting motivated to perform this season, but now they have extra incentive to prove that they are one of the best teams in the NBA.
Unlike several other top teams in the league, the Bulls landed just one player (Derrick Rose) on the All-Star team, and there's definitely some feeling among Tom Thibodeau's players that they may not be getting as much respect as they deserve.
"I'm kind of surprised at that, because I really feel like, as a team, I feel like we went through a lot with injuries," Bulls forward Luol Deng said before Friday’s morning practice. "We had Carlos [Boozer] missing, Joakim [Noah] missing, and I feel like other teams had injuries, but some of those guys that were hurt kind of made it. So I'm kind of surprised that we didn't really get rewarded for how well we've done as a team.
“We do have Derrick and Derrick deserves to be a starter and everything, but we're 20 games [over .500] ... but then again, I don't know how it all works. At the end of the day, you look at the All-Star [selections] and you look at everyone in it and you see the names and it's kind of like -- it's hard to say. All the players in there are really good players. They all deserve it. Maybe you need more players in there, I don't know."
Thibodeau came to his players’ defense as well.
"I thought [it was] unfortunate for our guys," Thibodeau said. "I thought Luol and Carlos were deserving. I thought Jo was on that path until he got hurt, but [I'm] not really concerned about stuff like that because that stuff, you really have no control over. In our eyes, they're All Stars. And I think what's important is what their teammates think and what their coaches think.”
Boozer, who said that he didn't think he would make the team because of the 18 games he missed, is convinced Deng will come back even hungrier after the All-Star slight.
"I'm sure it's going to motivate the hell out of him," Boozer said. "He's already motivated, but it will motivate him even more. I think we have a lot to prove. We're a team that is still trying to go out there and find our respect from everybody else."
Thibodeau's team understands that the best way to convince any doubters is to keep winning.
"We have bigger goals than just the All-Star [Game]," Deng said. "But at the same time, all of us have to know that that we have a lot of things to prove. I know it's our first year doing so well and trying to be up there with those elite teams, but it kind of shows that we're not there yet. All the respect is not there yet. We got to be hungry for that. I have no doubt that we're going to work hard and at the end of the day, and the end of the season, we're going to get rewarded for what's going on, how well we're doing."
Boozer may have summed up the team's attitude toward the whole affair best.
"It's the All-Star Game," he said. "I didn't come here for All-Star Games. I came here for championships. I want to win some rings. For me, I'm not concerned what everybody else thinks about us. I'm concerned about what we think about each other and if we believe in each other and we move forward to try to win a championship. I'm not really concerned how everybody else views our team."
That's the message that Thibodeau continually tries to impart.
"Those things you have no control over," Thibodeau said of the voting. "In some cases I think it's political, whatever it is, it's like the Hall of Fame. You can't get caught up in it."
The last word: Boozer on his All-Star plans: "I'm going go down to the beach in Miami, see my kids, get a little tan, come back a little crispier."