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Bulls’ Thibodeau says he’s not surprised by Asik’s success with Rockets

From left Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah Nate RobinsCarlos Boozer Luol Deng first half an NBA basketball game against Los Angeles

From left, Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah, Nate Robinson, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

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Updated: December 22, 2012 6:26AM



HOUSTON — Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he isn’t the least bit surprised about how well Omer Asik is doing as the Houston Rockets’ starting center.

Asik, who received a three-year, $25.1 million contract to leave the Bulls during the offseason, is averaging 10 points and 12.3 rebounds. He also has been a defensive force for the Rockets with his shot-blocking and physical play.

‘‘In the two years in Chicago, he got significantly better,’’ Thibodeau said Tuesday. ‘‘And he was playing behind Jo [Joakim Noah], so there weren’t a ton of minutes there. But we felt strongly about how good he was, and we knew that.

‘‘We also understood that he’s got the right characteristics, the right makeup. I mean, 7 feet, great drive, great character and great intelligence. Those types of players always improve, so it’s not surprising. He’s getting more minutes, so his production is better.’’

The nice thing about knowing Asik is that when the Bulls visit the Rockets on Wednesday, Thibodeau has a good sense of what his strengths and weaknesses are.

‘‘It’s not going to be an individual matchup,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘It’s his team against our team. But we know his strengths and weaknesses, and we’re concerned about how we’re going to try and make it hard on their team, as well.

‘‘Omer is a good player, did a great job for us. We’re happy for him, but we know there’s a bigger challenge for us than any individual matchup.’’

Average Jo

Noah was disappointed with the Bulls’ back-to-back losses Saturday to the Los Angeles Clippers and Sunday to the Portland Trail Blazers. He said the problems aren’t focus and effort as much as doing those things for 48 minutes.

‘‘It’s been there, but in spurts,’’ Noah said. ‘‘I think it’s mind-set more than anything, playing for each other. I just think we can do better with that. We’re 5-5, so we’re a team that knows we’re capable of better than that. To be an elite team, you have to do things very well. Right now, we’re doing things very average.’’

Second thoughts

There’s no need to point out to Thibodeau where the Bulls are failing. They were outscored 35-25 in the second quarter against the Clippers and 28-13 in the second quarter against the Trail Blazers.

‘‘The second quarter is the thing we have to clean up,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Offensively, we’re starting the game strong, but the tone of the game is not a defensive tone. Then in the second quarter we’re being hurt in a lot of areas, mainly the turnovers. That’s something we have to get corrected.

‘‘We’re in a hole, and we make a run to come back. But on the road, when you’re fighting a double-digit deficit, that’s tough.’’



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