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Heat is on Bulls to get job done this season

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Updated: December 28, 2013 2:31AM



Coach Tom Thibodeau knows exactly what’s at stake for the Bulls this season.

Win it all, and there’s a good chance the core will stay intact. Fall short, and welcome to the uncertainty of a major roster change.

The Bulls’ core players — Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng — are going on their fourth season together. That’s a lifetime in NBA terms.

Deng will be eligible for free agency after the season, and the Bulls might seek amnesty on the last year of Boozer’s contract once
summer hits. If it hits without a championship ring, the Bulls might have no choice but to rethink how their
roster is made up.

That’s why Thibodeau has added historian and philosopher to his résumé. He not only has gone back and studied the composition and drive of championship teams, but he has been trying to instill a new focus into his players with sayings and philosophies.

‘‘I don’t know whom [Thibodeau] got it from, but he always tells us that in order to succeed, you have to sacrifice something,’’ backup big man Taj Gibson said. ‘‘You have to really sacrifice basically the partying, the staying out. Put everything you have into the team, every little bit of
energy, everything dedicated to the team. And you will be rewarded for it.

‘‘That’s the main thing I thought about all summer,
just sacrificing and putting in the work. In the end, hopefully you get good
rewards.’’

What’s most important is that the Bulls are buying in. As difficult as Thibodeau can be with his demands, the entire roster is listening, from Rose to the 13th man on the roster.

‘‘It feels like the year we went to the Eastern Conference finals [in 2011],’’ Gibson said. ‘‘We talk a lot as far as the work part. Guys are just communicating more. The guys are always in the gym, really. It’s crazy because we’re sacrificing small things for a big reward, and I hope that big reward is an NBA championship.’’

It won’t be for lack of
effort, that’s for sure.

‘‘The whole team is hungry for it,’’ Rose said. ‘‘Every day we push ourselves on a championship-caliber level. Even when guys come in and they’re hurting, don’t feel like they have it, we push each other through practice, the shootarounds and the games.’’

The question is, can they push each other past the two-time defending champion Miami Heat? The Heat has ended two of the Bulls’ last three playoff runs, but the feeling around the Berto Center entering this season is different. The Bulls believe their toe-to-toe style of play can match punches with LeBron James and Co.

That’s why Thibodeau will keep pushing. If it takes history lessons and cute little sayings to help that push, well, whatever works.

‘‘To me, you just have to be ready to play,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘You have to understand what goes into winning. As they say, the battle is won before it’s fought. That comes from your preparation. So if you’re not putting the proper preparation into it, it’s going to show. We have to be mentally, physically and emotionally ready, and you have to put a lot of time and thought into that.

‘‘Each and every day is important. You can’t skip a day. You can’t only work when you feel like it or when you feel good. You have to work on the days that you’re not feeling great. You’ve
got to help push the team forward.’’

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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