DENVER – Maybe it’s the long road trip.
Or maybe Tom Thibodeau has just had enough.
After spending the first month of the season answering injury questions with his usual go-to, “We have more than enough,’’ or the always classic, “Next man up,’’ the Bulls coach is running low on patience.
Not just on the questions, but the fact that he has to deal with a mess of injuries – new and old – on an almost daily basis.
His responses now involve frequent head shaking and a lot of “Geezus.’’
Tuesday would offer very little relief.
While Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol were able to start a second consecutive game against the Nuggets, Rose couldn’t finish, staying in the locker room after the first half with what was called tightness in his left hamstring. The same left hamstring that cost Rose four games the last 10 days.
The Bulls were already without Taj Gibson (left ankle), and now the newest injury concern with Joakim Noah.
According to Thibodeau, Noah was out with left knee effusion, as well as an eye abrasion suffered in the win over Utah Monday night.
Not that Noah and bad left knee should come as a surprise. The Sun-Times quoted a source in the Noah camp back in October who said, “Jo’s [left] knee is going to be an issue all season long.’’
As far as a timetable for both Gibson and Noah, Thibodeau called them “day-to-day.’’ Question marks for Friday in Boston.
The one player Thibodeau isn’t questioning these days, however? Jimmy Butler. As far as Thibodeau was concerned, Butler’s hot start to this season is being completely over-shadowed by all the injury talk surrounding Rose, and the other walking wounded.
“We have to think about everybody,’’ Thibodeau said. “You know, Pau’s playing great basketball, Jimmy Butler is playing terrific. We’ve had a number of guys that have stepped up, and that’s what we’ve needed. And we have some guys that are more than capable, so the opportunity is here and they have to take advantage of it.’’
Butler sure has, coming into the game averaging 20.8 points a game, and then dropping 17 points on the Nuggets in the first half.
“As I said, it’s a great story, you can’t say enough about him,’’ Thibodeau said. “And what you’re seeing at the end when you’re watching him in a game, what you don’t see is all the work he’s putting into it. So gets to shootaround early, then practices great, practices with great intensity. Doesn’t skip any practices. Doesn’t take any possessions off in a game, and watches film.
“You can’t say enough about his preparation. When you have great concentration and maximum effort, you’re going to get to rare intensity. And that’s where he is. He doesn’t shortcut anything. So I’m not surprised he’s playing as well as he has been. I think it will continue.’’
A point that Thibodeau doesn’t want in the shadows of injury talk any longer. According to the coach, his players have shown that they can press on short-handed, and constantly bringing it up is a distraction that seems to be wearing thin on the coach.
He continued to insist that Rose will “take off’’ at some point this season, but for now the focus should be on a player that is playing at a high level.
“Yeah, [Butler’s] playing great basketball,’’ Thibodeau said. “Pau’s doing a great job as well. I don’t want that to get lost in what’s happening.’’