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Thibodeau confident in Bulls bench as playoffs near

Updated: April 28, 2014 10:32AM

It’s a far cry from the ‘‘Bench Mob’’ days, when the Bulls’ substitutes were so identifiable they had their own T-shirts.

But the Bulls’ reserves have weathered storms well enough this season that coach Tom Thibodeau is confident they can continue to do that as the playoffs

‘‘We’ve got great depth,’’ Thibodeau said after practice Wednesday at the Berto Center. ‘‘Yeah, I am [comfortable with the bench]. Usually when you head down the stretch, teams are tightening up their rotations. But I feel good about the players we do have. If someone goes down with foul trouble or we have an injury, that next guy has to be ready to step in and get the job done.

‘‘And that’s the one thing this team has done well all year. We had a situation the other night where Jimmy [Butler] got in early foul trouble, and Tony [Snell] had to go in and get the job done. I expect that from everybody. They’re on the roster for a reason.’’

It’s a shorter rotation now, usually seven deep
instead of the nine Thibo-
deau used when C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver and Omer Asik were joining Taj Gibson in a formidable second wave a couple of seasons ago. But even when he had his ‘‘Bench Mob,’’ Thibodeau shortened things up in the postseason.

Gibson, who’s in the hunt for Sixth Man of the Year honors, is a rock. D.J. Augustin has proved to be a great pickup. And though Snell didn’t light up the gym in shooting 0-for-6 on Monday against the Pacers, the rookie delivered 18 solid minutes defensively.

‘‘It’s definitely different than it was when we had the ‘Bench Mob,’ but overall the mind-set is good,’’ center Joakim Noah said. ‘‘We have the best bench player in the league in Taj. He’s been playing great basketball for us. A lot of guys have come in and stepped up huge for us off the bench. It’s a team. We need everybody to be ready when their name is called.’’

Although the rumors won’t go away, one player whose name won’t be called is Derrick Rose. Although Rose has progressed to the point where he’s doing
‘‘all of the non-contact stuff,’’ Thibodeau reminded everyone without prompting, ‘‘He’s out for the year.’’ When a reporter mentioned he wasn’t asking that, Thibodeau said, ‘‘I’m just beating you to the next one.’’

Nor were the Bulls planning to uncork the champagne if the Knicks lost Wednesday, allowing them to clinch a playoff berth.

‘‘I wish we could do that, but we can’t, man,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘I don’t think Thibs would let us do it anyway. . . . In basketball, once you clinch, it’s another step.’’

Clinch or not, Thibodeau said it would be business as usual.

‘‘We have to keep grinding away, and we’ll take a shot at the end,’’ he said.

One thing that is giving the Bulls a little satisfaction these days is the belief they can continue to move forward in a season once filled with doubt.

‘‘Thibs believes in us, and we believe in each other,’’ Noah said. ‘‘Of course, you have to use [the past doubters] as motivation. What people thought of us a couple of months ago compared to what they think now, it really means nothing; it’s what we think. At the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters. Expectations, whether they’re good or bad, don’t help you win ballgames.’’

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