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Thibodeau on Thunder road

Before the Bulls left for Oklahoma City after Tuesday's workout at the Berto Center, Tom Thibodeau was asked how he would sleep on the eve of his first game as a head coach tonight against the Thunder.

''I'll be fine,'' Thibodeau said with a smile. ''I won't need a whole lot of sleep, though.

''I'm looking forward to it. They're a great challenge, a terrific team, and we're going to have to play well on the road and do the things we've been working on.''

Ready or not, the start of the NBA regular season is here. With eight new players, a new coaching staff and new systems on both ends of the court, the Bulls don't have the luxury of easing into the season.

Are they ready to compete against the league's best-

''We are,'' Thibodeau said. ''We'll know [tonight]. The games reveal everything to you. We've been working hard, we've shown improvement and we have to continue to do so.''

Instead of bemoaning the Bulls' tough opener, Thibodeau embraces it.

''It gets you ready,'' he said. ''We have a lot of road games against quality opponents early in the season. [We're practicing] real hard because we know what's in front of us.

''We have to be ready for the start of the season, and playing those type of teams on the road is good. It will show us exactly where we are.''

Thibodeau is confident the things he and his staff emphasized during the preseason will help his team get off to a good start -- even with power forward Carlos Boozer sidelined for roughly the first month of the season.

''We want to be a defensive team, a rebounding team and a low-turnover team,'' Thibodeau said. ''If we do that, we think we have a chance to win on the road.

''The consistency is not quite where we want it to be. What we've shown in the preseason is some nights we're pretty good and other nights we aren't, and we want to continue to try to correct what our weaknesses have been so we can be a quality team.''

After a rash of nagging injuries during the preseason, the Bulls are relatively healthy at the start -- aside from Boozer and his broken right hand.

But point guard Derrick Rose wouldn't use Boozer's absence as a crutch to explain a slow start.

''No excuses,'' Rose said. ''Booz is out, but we can't look at it that way. We still have to go out and play that game. We still have enough to win.''

The biggest challenge against the Thunder will be finding a way to contain forward Kevin Durant, last season's NBA scoring king.

''He's a good player, and you have to guard him as a team,'' Rose said. ''You have to try to send him places where you can contain him and make sure it's hard for him to get open shots.''

The Thunder, though, is far from a one-man team. It boasts a great young nucleus with Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green as key supporting players.

''They're terrific,'' Thibodeau said. ''Westbrook keeps getting better and better. He's very quick and is great on dribble penetration and getting out on the break into the open floor.

''Green's a terrific basketball player because there isn't anything he doesn't do well. He's a range-shooting four, he can shoot the three, but he's a terrific low-post player, also. You give him the ball in the post, if his catches are easy, he's going to score in there. He's also a terrific passer and plays defense. There's not much he doesn't do.''

The Bulls will have to deal with the craziness of the Ford Center, which is like a college arena and figures to be energetic tonight, to say the least.

''It's going to be a tough game,'' Rose said, ''but we're willing to take that challenge.''