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TELANDER: Whether it’s Bulls 1 or Bulls 2, expect them to be competitive

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Updated: December 1, 2012 4:56PM



Remember in that Dr. Seuss book when the Cat in the Hat introduces Thing 1 and Thing 2?

That’s what I think of while watching the final minutes of the Bulls’ practice Tuesday at the Berto Center.

The team here before us is Bulls 1. The team we will see sometime late this winter or early next spring, when Derrick Rose returns from rehabbing the repaired anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, will be Bulls 2.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 were just about the same. And maybe the two Bulls teams will be almost identical, too. But what a crazy situation this creates for Bulls management. Quite simply, nobody can know what that second team will be like. Then again, nobody knows for certain what this Bulls 1 team will be like.

Coach Tom Thibodeau stood on the sideline as players shot free throws and announced the 2012 starting lineup: ‘‘The usual group — Kirk, Rip, Lu, Carlos, Jo.’’

Just six syllables. Dr. Seuss would like that. Spelled out, it is Kirk Hinrich at point guard, Richard Hamilton at shooting guard, Luol Deng at small forward, Carlos Boozer at power forward and Joakim Noah at center.

It is, indeed, a pretty usual lineup for the Bulls. Except for that point-guard spot.

Rose, the phenom ball of energy and skill who just turned 24, is the wild card here. He is the missing superstar. He is the sadly injured entertainer. He is the hardwood blessing we all received, the one we don’t know for certain whether we will see again.

Well, we’ll see Rose. As Thibodeau said: ‘‘Right now, he’s shooting and doing his rehab. Once he’s doing more in practice, he’ll be with the team more.’’

Rose wasn’t there for the final team practice before the season opener Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings at the United Center, but he has been around.

‘‘He’s doing fine,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s working his tail off. Everybody’s gotta be patient.’’

What a hard thing to do.

As they now stand, the Bulls are a good — if not great — team. At least, that’s how it seems. They have outstanding personalities for team ball, meaning players who aren’t selfish and who are willing to submit to Thibodeau’s defensive-minded nature.

Thibodeau’s approach in a very large nutshell?

‘‘With or without Derrick . . . we’re not changing our attitude or approach,’’ he said. ‘‘Defend, rebound, low turnovers, inside-out, share the ball, play to your strengths, cover up your weaknesses, know your job, do your job, know when to shoot, know when to pass, stay disciplined. Whether he’s here or not, that’s always the same.’’

So is that enough to beat the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks?

It’s good that Hinrich, Rose’s replacement, is a steady veteran who knows how to lead a team and who knows Chicago well from his earlier days as a first-round draft pick here. But his style of play isn’t like Rose’s. Nobody’s is.

‘‘It’s on all of us,’’ Boozer said. ‘‘You can’t replace Derrick with one person. There’s only one Derrick Rose.’’

But if Rose doesn’t get back till February, March or even April, the Bulls will have played more than half their games and their identity will have been formed. It’s hard to think an NBA most valuable player could be a disruptive addition to a team, but that actually might be the case with Rose at first.

Who gets cut when he’s added? Whose minutes go? How does the rhythm now feel?

And the kicker: What if the repaired Rose isn’t like the old one?

As they are made up now, the Bulls seem to be no match for
the superstar-studded Heat. But who knows? Teamwork can do a lot of things.

The best-case scenario is that the late addition of Rose will be like a jet-pack booster for a rocket that is streaking upward. That would be Bulls 2 with a bullet.

‘‘There can be a distraction every day,’’ Thibodeau said when asked about the Rose concern. ‘‘That’s the NBA.’’

After listing a bunch of possible distractions, ranging from lockouts to back-to-back games, he added knowingly: ‘‘Whatever, there’s an excuse for it all. Or you stay focused and get the job done.’’

With whatever team you’ve got.



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