Thibs has to work fast to get Bulls in sync with playoffs around corner
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org April 16, 2013 10:15PM
Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau directs the defense in the first half of the Chicago Bulls 97-58 win over the Atlanta Hawks Monday January 14, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
The facts: 7, CSN, 1000-AM.
Updated: April 16, 2013 10:15PM
Coach Tom Thibodeau is concerned. It’s inevitable. He really doesn’t know any other way.
But playoff week is different.
And playoff week with uncertainty surrounding his Bulls adds to that anxiety.
“Well, we still have a lot of work to do,’’ Thibodeau said. “We have to be at our best in a short amount of time. I know in looking at our team, we’re a well-rested team. The question I have is, are we a sharp team? We have guys that haven’t played a lot of minutes that are going to be called upon to be at their best. The moment of truth will be here shortly.’’
A moment that could overwhelm the Bulls.
Forward Taj Gibson returned from a sprained left medial collateral ligament Monday to put in 21 minutes against the Orlando Magic. Gibson had missed 10 games with the injury, returned to play seven games, then missed another seven when he had a setback.
Center Joakim Noah played 15 minutes against the Magic after missing 12 of the last 13 games because of the plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
With one more regular-season game left on Wednesday, however, the Bulls have little time to become a polished machine.
“Part of that is we’ve had guys out for so long,’’ forward Carlos Boozer said when asked if there was enough time to get sharp. “We have guys on this team for a certain reason. That’s why our team works. It’s like having a car and missing a couple of pieces, it’s not going to run as smooth. But when you have everybody back out there, all the pieces to the car, it runs pretty good.’’
Most of the pieces are back. Just not the steering wheel.
But guard Derrick Rose’s teammates continue to hold out hope that he’ll return in dramatic fashion during the playoffs.
That would be a “game-changer,’’ as Boozer put it.
“When we’re depleted,’’ Boozer said, ‘‘we play hard, we grind. We’re a good team. But when we’re healthy, we can be a great team, and we’ve shown that when we’ve had all our guys back, all the pieces to the puzzle.’’
Thibodeau has a puzzle of his own to solve: the rotation.
With Gibson and Noah back but on a minutes watch, Thibodeau already was racking his brain to figure out how he’ll use his players and for how long.
“Well, that’s the next thing because it’s such a short sample,’’ Thibodeau said. “And then you also don’t know what the minutes are going to be, so that’s another huge factor. So there’s a lot of balls up in the air right now. We have to get that sorted out in a very short amount of time.’’
And if they can?
“We’re a confident group,’’ guard Kirk Hinrich said. “We haven’t been playing our best lately, but we realize that when we’re right, we can be a very formidable team.’’