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3 Keys for the Bulls this season

Updated: December 1, 2013 7:07AM

Three keys to the season

1. Healthy, wealthy and wise: While the playoff run last season was heroic, it ended in the second round with Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng sidelined. With Rose, Deng, Noah and Carlos Boozer healthy and playing, the Bulls have won 86 percent of their games. That’s the endgame: Enter the playoffs healthy so they can see what this roster is capable of.

2. Minute men: A lot has been made of how coach Tom Thibodeau handles his players’ minutes, but that isn’t going to change. He has studied championship teams of the last 20 years, and the conclusion is simple: “The best players play heavy minutes,’’ Thibodeau said. All that matters is that the Bulls embrace it. “I only know one system, and that’s Thibs’ system,’’ reserve forward/center Taj Gibson said. “But guys tend to want to be out there. It could be a flaw, who knows? But, we just focus on what we think, not what the rest of the league thinks.’’

3. Getting defensive: All the talk about the new-look offense and Rose’s improved shooting range is nice, but Thibodeau’s system is predicated on defense. The Bulls again will need to be one of the better defensive teams in the league to cover up some of their weaknesses.

Three key players

1. Derrick Rose: The face of the franchise is back, and the team’s success starts and ends with him. With an improved three-point shot, opposing point guards could be in for some long nights.

2. Mike Dunleavy Jr.: The newest member of the new “Bench Mob,’’ Dunleavy can give the Bulls much-needed outside shooting. He is versatile enough to play multiple positions.

3. Carlos Boozer (below): Love him or hate him, the Bulls need Boozer. He’s their best post-up player, and Thibodeau’s offense is dependent on playing inside-out.

Three games to watch

1. Nov. 6 at Indiana: Considering how the teams went at it in two preseason games, expect the intensity to be high every time they meet.

2. Dec. 25 at Brooklyn: Several Bulls believed the Nets were heartless when they met in the playoffs last season. So what did the Nets do in the offseason? They added Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

3. March 9 vs. Miami: The Heat makes its final trip to the United Center for the regular season. It could be the final measuring stick to see how the Bulls match up with the champions.

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