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Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau says improvement is top priority

Forward Jimmy Butler has played team-leading 98 minutes 44 seconds Bulls’ first three preseasgames. | Jim Mone~AP

Forward Jimmy Butler has played a team-leading 98 minutes, 44 seconds in the Bulls’ first three preseason games. | Jim Mone~AP

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Updated: November 16, 2012 6:16AM



MINNEAPOLIS — A 1-2 preseason start is nothing new for Tom Thibodeau.

In 2010-11, his first season as the Bulls’ coach, Thibodeau lost his first two preseason games before his team broke through and beat the Wizards at the United Center.

The Bulls finished that preseason 4-4, then notched the best record in the Eastern Conference during the regular season before losing to the Heat in the conference finals.

‘‘As long as they’re going to keep score, we’re going to try and win,’’ Thibodeau has said several times since camp opened this season.

After back-to-back losses to the Cavaliers and Timberwolves on Friday and Saturday, Thibodeau is using the Bulls’ shaky start to let his players know that life without injured star Derrick Rose isn’t going to be easy.

‘‘The big thing for me right now is our improvement,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘That’s what I want our players to be focused in on. And I want that to be on a daily basis, not just in games. Games reveal where you are and tell you what you need to work on. I’m more concerned with the attitude and the approach; I want that to be good.

‘‘I think if we’re doing the right things each and every day and everyone is putting everything they have into it, we’ll improve. I don’t think we can ever lose sight of how hard we’re going to have to play to be successful when we’re short-handed.’’

Message sent.

BIG NUMBERS

.130 The Bulls’ three-point shooting percentage (6-for-46) in their first three preseason games.

98:44 Minutes and seconds played by second-year forward Jimmy Butler in the first three preseason games, including all 48 minutes Saturday against the Timberwolves.

6-for-20 Guard Marco Belinelli’s shooting line in the first three preseason games. He is 0-for-6 from three-point range.

LOOKING AHEAD

Player to watch this week: Marco Belinelli — With two preseason games on the schedule this week, the Bulls need to start seeing the offensive punch he showed the last two seasons with the Hornets.

Game to watch this week: Tuesday against the Bucks at the United Center — The Bucks are a fringe playoff team in the East and will provide a good test after bad losses to the Cavaliers and Timberwolves.

THEY SAID IT

‘‘Well, our coach definitely beats himself up over it, so however your coach goes, that’s how we go. We have to be a balanced team. To be successful in this league, everyone has to step up and contribute. We have to play better.’’

— Joakim Noah, on the Bulls’ 1-2 start to the preseason

‘‘If we can defend, rebound and get our turnovers down, then we’re going to be in position to win, regardless of how we shoot the ball. Some nights you shoot the ball better than others. That’s reality of this league.’’

— Tom Thibodeau, on overcoming the poor shooting displayed so far



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