Bulls enjoy their fight on big trip
Thibodeau's players make mistakes, but they make up for it with toughness
Although no one would say it publicly, the Bulls' main goal through the grueling November and early December schedule was simply to avoid getting buried.
With Carlos Boozer (broken hand) out and a slew of tough road games, that sentiment was understandable.
But the Bulls (7-4) are doing more than surviving, and that affords the team the luxury of letting Boozer fully heal before he's activated.
With an 88-83 victory Friday over the Dallas Mavericks, the Bulls have won two of the first three games on the seven-game road trip -- already qualifying it as one of the best circus trips in the last 12 years.
The amazing thing about the Bulls' record is they're experiencing many of the predicted early-season problems. They've been inconsistent and at times look like a team with a rookie coach working in eight new players.
But, somehow, they keep winning games. The Bulls may have a few shortcomings, but mental toughness isn't one of them.
''There's a lot of fight in this team,'' coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''If we get down, we'll keep working the game. The thing that I like is the guys bounce back.''
That's precisely what they had to do to win in Dallas. The Bulls were up by four at halftime, but the Mavs opened the second half with a 20-4 run for a 55-43 lead.
C.J. Watson making the adjustment
Sure, it’s fun being part of the band. But when they hit a bad note, it’s never the lead singers who get the blame.
And so it’s been for several of the Bulls reserves players, mostly shooting guards Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer and point guard C.J. Watson, who hear the rumbles, that the team needs to replace them, needs a high quality starting shooting guard, a better backup point to relieve Derrick Rose.
No, it’s not something they hear from their teammates or their coach as the reserves were vital Friday in the 88-83 upset win in Dallas, and coach Tom Thibodeau routinely has said he has confidence in the bench and never is afraid to use them.
But Watson, perhaps more than anyone, has heard the whispers, sometimes louder than other times that the team needs to find someone else.
“You hear it all the time,” acknowledges Watson, particularly quiet and polite among the Bulls players. “It’s part of life. It doesn’t bother me.”
I’ll add my opinion that it bothers everyone when they are serious about their job, as I’ve seen Watson to be. But it’s what you say, especially when you are young and can be hurt more by it.
“It goes on everywhere if you’re playing basketball,” Watson was saying quietly the other day. “They say that about others.”
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This Bulls team looks legit
When the news of Carlos Boozer's injury hit, I think most Bulls fans, including myself, went into survival mode. Just make it through the first month of the season and hang around hoping that Boozer's reinsertion into the offense would help the team play up to their potential.
The reality is that the Bulls are 7-4 right now, which despite the small sample size, is on pace to win 52 games this season. On top of that, the Bulls have already played some of the really tough games on the schedule.
When the season started, I figured this was probably a 41-43 team without Carlos Boozer on it. We lack a secondary offensive creator, ball handling outside of Derrick Rose, and I thought our front court would struggle. I also wasn't convinced the Bulls would shoot well enough from the perimeter.
Rose's brilliance and everyone's hard play would keep them at the water line, but not allow them to go much above it until Boozer came back.
The results have proven much better though.