Bulls Run Toward The ‘Physical Cliff’

CHICAGO – Imagine Hugh Hefner with only one girlfriend. Tony Stewart actually driving 55. Joey Chestnut pushing himself away from the table after just two weenies.

Now imagine Tom Thibodeau getting Derrick Rose back in the Chicago Bulls’ rotation, but with a limit on his minutes. After all, when Rose returns from ACL surgery and rehab on his left knee, he almost certainly will come with strict restrictions on his playing time.

With Thibodeau, the Bulls’ hard-grinding coach, that could be like putting a $150 cap on Keith Richards‘ bar tab.

He is the anti-“Pop,” never unduly resting players who might be able to add a couple of points or burn a few more minutes off the game clock regardless of their fatigue. You buy a ticket to a Bulls game, you never have to worry that Chicago’s key players are going to spend more time planted in seats than you are.

Let’s put it this way: If Thibs were in charge over in Pamplona, Spain, those runs with the bulls would be 26.2 miles long. And los toros would be kvetching.

In the 93-85 victory over New York Saturday night at United Center, Bulls forward Luol Deng played 46:34 minutes. Joakim Noah was on the floor for 44:19 and even Marco Belinelli, subbing these days for injured Richard Hamilton, logged 44:59. Joked Deng afterward: “It’s always tough when after the game, you see Marco icing.”

Deng’s workload over the just-completed stretch of four games in five nights: 41:14, 42:23, 42:25 and finally that 46:34. He has played fewer than 40 minutes only four times in his 19 starts this season and he again leads the NBA with an average of 41.2 minutes. The 27-year-old led the league last season too (39.4) and ranked fourth (39.1) in his first season with Thibodeau in 2010-11.

Noah’s minutes have reached an all-time high as well: 39.8 this season, after never having averaged more than 32.8. He ranks second in the NBA to Deng and played 171:31 of the possible 192 minutes in the 4-in-5 run against Indiana, at Cleveland, at Detroit and vs. the Knicks.

The 6-foot-11 center, also 27, had a career night against the Pistons with 30 points, 23 rebounds and six assists. But his legs were gone for parts of Saturday’s game, until he managed eight points, three boards, an assist and a block in the final quarter.

“I was tired but it’s all worth it right now,” Noah said. “The thing that stinks is when you feel like this and you don’t get the win.”

At the moment, the Bulls (11-8) have enough wins to sit precariously atop the artless NBA Central. But at what price? Both Deng and Noah have dealt with injuries before. Overuse could lead to new ones or cause one ones (Noah’s plantar fasciitis, Deng’s achy left wrist) to flare up.

Thibodeau might not see many options. Besides Rose, Hamilton is out indefinitely with a left foot injury. Guard Kirk Hinrich missed the second half Saturday with a left elbow injury. Backup big Taj Gibson lasted just 11:35 before getting tossed in a 1-2 flurry of technicals from ref Derrick Stafford. And of course, vet Carlos Boozer effectively manages his own minutes, generally by how helpful he is on any given night at one end or the other.

Still, the possibility of Rose returning to action just as teammates such as Deng and Noah go down is a real one. Like those profligate-spending folks in Washington, there is a chance Thibodeau could run Chicago right over the physical cliff.


  1. Arky says:

    Thibodeau is a regular season coach until he learns that there’s no prizes for winning the regular season.

    Last year, after the Bulls lost narrowly to Miami in Miami in a game where understandably the starters for both teams played big minutes, both the Bulls and Miami played the next night on the road.

    Miami played a middling team and played the starters no more than 30 minutes each in a win.

    Thibodeau played Rose over 40 minutes against WASHINGTON.

    When I saw that, and with it already clear that Rose wasn’t 100%, I predicted that the Bulls would be screwed up by injuries, and they were. It’s not bad luck. It’s bad management.

  2. upnunder says:

    for the Clippers bench; they can be called “Clips D-Run Bunch” or “Clippers swarming D Gang”

  3. Bulls says:

    Everyone keeps putting Boozer down, and when he first came to the Bulls I was the same way.. I hated that he didn’t play defense, but most importantly, I didn’t like that he looked lost on the court sometimes.. He didn’t play hard, and didn’t show up every night.. Now say what you want, but this version of Boozer has become more consistent with what he is going to give you every night, and also, he may not be a defensive stopper, but at least you can see that the effort is there more times than its not. I’d take Boozer over most PF’s right now. Obviously not the top PF’s, but as a second or third option on this team, he’s not that bad. As far as playing too much, I agree that it might be too much, but this is what they need right now to make the playoffs without Rose. Come playoffs, every team will be tired, but Rose should be back, and be one of the freshest players, and that’s a big advantage in itself.. Let Thibs run the show, he clearly knows what he is doing.

    GO bulls!

  4. Dbrooks22 says:

    Wow! So everybody is picking on poor Carlos boozer!!! GOOD!!! He needs to be picked on!!!! No defense playing fool! With the money he signed he should be playing both sides of the court at an high level every night!!!! No excuses!!!! The greatest player in the world brought his game every night.

  5. Briyo says:

    U guys r wrong about boozer him n gasol have average defense. It’s hard to find a power forward who can post up and shoot mid range. He is a key in the bulls roster.

  6. ko0kie says:

    no wonder rose is not back yet.. he probably has a lot of work to play 45mins a game.. lol

  7. WILKSY08 says:

    We are already rotaating heavily because of injuries though. Rips out so Marco played a lot and Hinrich is now out so Nate plays a lot. The minutes would be more spread out if Rip was back, Hinrich was healthy and Taj stops gtting called for fouls

  8. Kamote says:

    As compared to Pop’s Spurs, Chicago has the advantage of still having young core players. The Bull’s bench isn’t that deep also, but improvement won’t come just by watching on the bench. Hopefully Thibs would find a rotation solution once D Rose gets his health back. As both NY teams are on the rise, they might find a hard time retiaining its elite status in the East come the playoff.

  9. BArad says:

    its san antonio or the memphis griz

  10. Jumppong says:

    Best in the west is the L.A Clippers?? are you kidding me??

  11. joe says:

    how many offensive fouls is taj gona have this season. and when is his jump shot gona return. has anyone seen taj gibsons jump shot please return it to the united center address……madison ave. chicago il. thank you..

  12. Rich says:

    Are you serious? comparing mid-20s Deng and Noah with mid-30s Duncan and Parker? And using this as a reason to mock Pop? Holy cow the author has a problem with missing the AGE part

  13. Doremon says:

    tibs need to understand that the season is a marathon. he needs to understand the difference between playing hard and playing smart or find a balance between the two. part of the reason they lost last year was because Rose was out but also you could tell they were simply out of gas.

  14. Sky Left-Hook to the Dome says:

    my father worked for decades on his feet, 10-12 hours a day (still does) no paid vacation, or vacation at all for that matter, come home tired, exploited, underapreciated , underpaid, only to go to sleep so that he could get back up and do it again. and im suppose to feel sorry for deng because thibs played him over 40 minutes ?

    go Thibs ! go chi town !! lock em down !!!

  15. Bulls2012 says:

    The Bulls are a decent team…Coach Thibs in my opinion is the best coach in the NBA..Hes by far the best defensive coach in years. This year is a throw away season. Signing multiple players to one year deals. Next year we are going to have a whole different bench..Drose probably is going to be back back around middle-end of Feburary so thatll make us a pretty scary team to play in the playoffs……

    Best team in East;- Miami Heat
    Best team in West: La Clippers

  16. GL says:

    We should call the Bulls bench, “bench warmers mob.”

  17. Shawn says:

    when the going gets tough, the tough get going. they have to step up to make it in the playoffs. and they all most play at their best. i greatly admire the entire Bulls team and coach. Sometimes in life you have to go against all odds, and that means you have to be at your best at all times. this is not a superstar team, ie., having kobe and d howard – so obviously, the coach knows what he is doing. I JUST LOVE THIS TEAM!!! GREAT JOB TO YOU ALL. MUCH RESPECT

  18. WILKSY08 says:

    The reason Thibs did this was because it was New York, who even without Melo managed to give3 the defneding champions their biggest loss since the big three came together. Deng has led the league in minutes since Thibs has been coach, they havew a fantastic relationship and Thibs has always seen Deng as the glue guy for our team. Noah’s minutes were a surprise but what people seem to forget is that we lost Asik. Asik gave us a big boost on the bench that Nazr Mohammed simply cant. Oh and another reason for Noah’s hefty minutes against new york was that Gibsn got ejected. Gibson can play the four or five and recently has benn playing back up to both Booxer and Noah. Losing him in the second quater meant Noah had to play more minutes. This is the way Basketball should be played. Howver, the comparison to Spurs is a bit ridiculous Steve. Noah and Deng are both under 30, and arguably havent even reached their prime yet. Tim Duncan, Ginobli and Parker are all over 30 so their is no way their bodies could handle major minutes like the Bulls

  19. krespino says:

    Why is the coach pushing the players so much… This is not playoff series.
    He should create rotation solutions.

  20. Andrea says:

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  21. tankster says:

    Maybe you need to walk up to Boozer and tell him how you really feel!…….Then I suggest you run like hell B-4 he gets his hands on your cowardly a$$……………Find a new whipping boy!

    • james lewis says:

      Bulls need to trade boozer for josh selby and tony allen

    • dattebayo says:

      Bulls fans see defense all game long and they see who doesn’t play defense. I am not hating on Bozer, but his only value to the Bulls is his offense. He is a defensive liability and if he can’t make any kind of impact on offense, he is ineffective and won’t play much minutes. Management knew what kind of player he is, but a lot of Bulls fans don’t feel good about Boozer and think his big contract is holding them back.