Thibs: The Central is much improved

CHICAGO -- Tom Thibodeau says he knows it will be a tough haul for his Chicago Bulls team to climb to the top of the Central Division this season. That's because the veteran coach believes the division is as talented as it has been in some time.

"Our challenge will be a great one," Thibodeau said in an interview with Bulls TV on Wednesday. "Each year you're faced with new and different challenges. I think the Central Division is as strong as it's been in a long time from top to bottom. Of course, Indiana continues to add quality players to their team. They had a terrific season last season. Cleveland has made a lot of additions to their team, getting the No. 1 pick in [Anthony] Bennett and adding [Andrew] Bynum to the mix, so they'll be dangerous. I think Detroit has added a lot with Josh Smith and then of course Milwaukee, everyone tends to overlook them, but I think they're going to be very good as well. So it will be a great challenge for us."

As far as the early part of the training camp schedule goes, Thibodeau says he knows it will be a little different from normal. That's because the Bulls start their preseason schedule with a pair of road games in Indianapolis and St. Louis (against the Memphis Grizzlies) and then head to Rio de Janeiro to face off against the Washington Wizards.

"It will be a little hectic, but I think it's good for our team," he said. "We're looking forward to going over there. Being on the road early makes it a little different for us because we won't have time in between to really settle down to go over there. We're only going to be over there for four days. But I think it will be a very positive experience. I like it for team-building reasons, particularly early in the season. And then once we get back from Rio, we'll be home for a while so hopefully we can get our legs under us and continue to build and develop and be ready for the season. We have a very tough schedule and we're going to have to be ready for it."

As usual, Thibodeau has already broken down each part of the upcoming schedule.

"We have a lot of road games early," he said. "The back-to-backs are down a little bit, but we also have an inordinate amount of games in which we're playing at home [and] the night before we're playing on the road so we have to be ready for that challenge."

Aside from the schedule, everyone within the Bulls' organization knows the biggest topic of discussion will be the health of superstar Derrick Rose. When it comes to that subject, Bulls general manager Gar Forman sounds confident Rose will be ready to go on the first day of training camp.

"I don't see any reason where he wouldn't be," Forman told Bulls TV. "He continues to make great progress. He's had a good summer of work. He's been in L.A. He's training on a regular basis. He feels good, he's looked good. He's had a couple trips with adidas where he's traveled overseas so everything's real positive on the Derrick front."