Bulls’ backcourt thick on numbers, thin on talent
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter November 24, 2013 7:49PM
Updated: November 24, 2013 10:13PM
LOS ANGELES — There are enough bodies on the roster to replace the injured Derrick Rose.
Kirk Hinrich started at point guard against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon, Marquis Teague is now the backup and even Tony Snell saw increased minutes to help out with the suddenly thin backcourt.
Talent? Not even close.
If the Bulls are going to stay afloat in a mediocre Eastern Conference, it will come from a frontcourt that now has to be leaned on like it was last season. That starts with center Joakim Noah.
“Yeah, [Noah is] one of the options we do have,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Jo is playing very well for us right now. Defensively, he’s off the charts, and I think he’s getting more comfortable.
“I think missing the whole training camp set him back, but he’s playing at a very high level. And he did for us last year as well. We know what he’s capable of doing, and I expect him to help lead us, along with Carlos [Boozer] and Luol [Deng].’’
Without Rose last season, Noah’s first half was All-Star caliber before the plantar fasciitis in his foot slowed him down.
Noah, who is one of the best low-post facilitators in the East, averaged 11.8 points, 11.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists in the first half last season.
His numbers this season have been down across the board (8.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists), and he had an off game Sunday with just eight points and four rebounds. But Thibodeau expects Noah to improve.
“I think we have to find a great concentration level along with maximum effort and try to find a rare intensity,’’ Thibodeau said. “But we don’t have to change the way we play. We’re built on defense and rebounding.’’
Call the Butler
Thibodeau spoke on the phone Saturday with injured guard Jimmy Butler about his turf toe, and while the hope was he would be available next week, it likely won’t be that soon.
“He’s feeling better, some of the swelling is out, but he still has a ways to go,’’ Thibodeau said.
Doc’s house call
The Bulls weren’t the only ones crushed by Rose’s injury. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said it was a huge loss for the game and the city he grew up in.
“It’s awful,’’ Rivers said. “You just felt like he was just about to break loose and then that happens. I’m just hoping he’s back healthy this year. It would be great obviously for Thibs, but more importantly, it would be great for the Bulls and great for Derrick. He deserves it.’’