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MORRISSEY: Bulls win opener, but sense of excitement lacking without Derrick Rose

Bulls forward Luol Deng passes ball traffic first quarter Chicago Bulls-SacramenKings NBA game Wednesday October 31 2012 United Center. |

Bulls forward Luol Deng passes the ball in traffic in the first quarter of the Chicago Bulls-Sacramento Kings NBA game Wednesday October 31, 2012 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 2, 2012 2:21PM



Isaw Jason from the
‘‘Friday the 13th’’ movies Wednesday night at the United Center, unless that was bored, locked-out Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford. I saw a witch, a zombie and some creepy troll dude, too.

I didn’t see Derrick Rose, and that was the weirdest thing of all on Halloween night. He wasn’t even modeling the latest in inactive wear on the Bulls’ bench.

We’re going to have to get used to this Rose-less world. We’re going to have to get used to sweat and blood, defense and rebounding and toil and trouble without the payoff of seeing Rose roar to the basket. It’ll be cotton candy devoid of sugar.

The Bulls won their season opener, beating the Sacramento Kings 93-87, and all the way through I kept waiting for Bobby Weiss to toss the ball inside to Tom Boerwinkle.

The team is in a holding pattern until Rose comes back from his knee injury. That might be after the new year. That might be next season. Nobody knows for sure. Let’s not even talk about whether he’ll be the same Derrick Rose when he does return. No need to get profoundly depressed just yet.

Sigh.

Coach Tom Thibodeau would prefer to talk about the people who are in uniform. Yet somewhere underneath the many layers of coach-speak, you figure even he realizes the folly of trying to ignore the obvious.

‘‘Whether Derrick’s here or not, we don’t want to change anything,’’ he said. ‘‘What we’ve always wanted was a team of leaders. We don’t want any one guy being the leader.’’

Well, it all depends on your definition of ‘‘leader.’’ If you think a leader is someone who plays hard and encourages his teammates, then the Bulls do indeed have a lot of leaders. If you think a leader is someone who can carry a team by himself with his athletic ability and will, then the Bulls are leader-less for now.

They don’t have a go-to guy on offense without Rose, but we knew that already. We knew it long before he blew out his left knee in the playoffs last season. The Bulls are going to win games just on their hustle and defense, but they’re also going to lose games because they won’t have enough scoring options in the fourth quarter. All the hustle points in the world can’t mask that.

Who’s going to take Rose’s shots?

‘‘We don’t know,’’ center Joakim Noah said.

They do know they will have forward Taj Gibson for four more years, thanks to the contract extension he signed Wednesday night. The future is going to be a lot better than the present.

But the present is all there is right now.

‘‘We want to get the most out of what we have, whatever that might be,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘That’s why we don’t really want to change. I think if you approach it the same way, where you’re concentrating on your improvement, who knows where it can go?’’

Day after day, Thibodeau wants the same thing: a metronome of a basketball team known for its feral defense. In other words, a team other coaches will love to watch.

Forward Luol Deng might set the league record for minutes in a season. Forward Carlos Boozer will break his own record of screams after missed free throws. Noah, who had 23 points and 10 rebounds, will be his naturally caffeinated self. And the Bulls will make the playoffs.

Forty-five victories? That feels right.

But you keep coming back to it: Who’s going to score when the Bulls need a big bucket at the end of games?

‘‘It’s not going to be one player,’’ Boozer said. ‘‘If Derrick was here, it would be one player.’’

Look, Thibodeau wants Rose healthy. He’s not insane. But I wonder if somewhere amid the X’s and O’s floating in his brain is the idea that this is a pretty cool coaching challenge. Imagine taking a decent team and teaching the NBA that defense and rebounding can win games.

And wouldn’t that be a nice way to stick it to all the people with low expectations for the Bulls?

There are going to be games when Rose does sit on the Bulls’ bench, as long as it fits in with his rehab schedule. That won’t be a tease; it will be a promise of better things to come.

The opener felt like a game in January, but it won’t be this way forever.

Just wait. It’s all you can do.



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