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Bulls’ inconsistent offense crying out for Derrick Rose’s return

Tom Thibodeau

Tom Thibodeau

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The facts: 7, CSN, 1000-AM.

Updated: January 14, 2013 12:40PM

What Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has done so far this season has been impressive. Admirable, really.

It arguably has been his best coaching job since joining the Bulls before the 2010 season, and it only has added to a résumé that already features a Coach of the Year award.

But now it’s time for Thibodeau to acknowledge the obvious: He might have pulled this cart as far as he can without Derrick Rose.

So while Thibodeau and his players were searching for explanations for how the Bulls have beaten the New York Knicks (twice) and Miami Heat on the road but have lost to the Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns at home, the answer is staring them right in the face.

Rose is about ready to start full-contact practices with the team. His rehab from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee is in the final stages.

‘‘Chicago is always going to defend you; they’re always going to be in games,’’ Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins said last month. ‘‘But when you can’t consistently score in this league, it’s hard. If you don’t have a guy that you can get that ball to and say, ‘Go get your shot . . . ’

‘‘This is not a league of running plays; it’s a league of making plays. And Derrick Rose is one of the best playmakers in the NBA.’’

That’s why Thibodeau is promising to find a way to get the most out of the Bulls in the wake of their 97-81 loss Saturday to the Suns at the United Center. He said he’s not going to change the starting lineup or the bench rotation, so what can he do to get a team of overachievers to overachieve more?

‘‘If we had the answer, we would fix it,’’ forward Carlos Boozer said of the Bulls’ 10-10 home record. ‘‘The secret is in the work. We’ve just got to play better. There’s no one [outside the locker room] that’s going to fix it; we’ve got to fix it ourselves.’’

No, they need to keep doing what they’re doing and ease an MVP into the mix.

‘‘[The Bulls] are a very good team and are missing arguably the best player in the league,’’ Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. ‘‘Things change when they get him back, and there will be consistency there.’’

Collins said it’s human nature for a team to get distracted and look over its shoulder when a star player is about to return to the mix, but that kind of talk isn’t allowed around Thibodeau.

‘‘Even with [Rose] out, we’ve got to win these games because they are totally capable of being won,’’ swingman Jimmy Butler said when asked if Rose’s anticipated return is starting to shift the focus. ‘‘He’s not with us, so we can’t pretend that he is.’’

But he soon will be, so stop pretending he won’t.

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