Coming off a hard fought, emotional overtime victory against the Miami Heat, a challenge for the Bulls will be to sustain the right mentality and come ready for their next opponent, which happens to be a formidable one.
“It’s not easy,” said Joakim Noah as he and his teammates prepared to host the San Antonio Spurs, owners of the league’s best record at 46-16, on Tuesday night.
“I think human nature would be to exhale a little bit,” Noah acknowledged. “The Spurs are playing great basketball and they’re coming whether we like it or not, whether we exhaled or not. We’ve got to fight human nature and be ready for a big game against a team that’s going to come in hungry because we beat them pretty good at their place.”
In that game on Jan. 29, Jimmy Butler’s 19 points led seven Bulls in double figures as they defeated the Spurs 96-86, marking the third time in the last eight seasons Chicago has won in San Antonio.
“It’s always a good test,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau of facing the Spurs, winners of six games in a row and nine of their last 10. “To me, they’re the gold standard of the league in terms of their consistency of winning year after year. Give them a lot of credit.”
While Thibodeau was obviously pleased with Sunday’s win, he referred to the team’s day in and day out approach that has helped Chicago go 23-10 since Jan. 1, best in the Eastern Conference.
“Our guys have chosen to fight and they give you everything they have,” said Thibodeau. “I want them to continue to concentrate on improvement and get ready for the next one. I don’t want them looking backward. I want them looking ahead. There are still a lot of things we can do better. We know we’re going to have to make another jump.”
“There’s still a long ways to go,” added Thibodeau. “Whenever you exhale in this league, you get in trouble. You’re going to be challenged every day. Hopefully we’re building the right habits and we can continue to improve. We know that it’s important to be playing your best going down the stretch.”
Thibodeau on Rose: Not close to practicing; “Spirit’s strong, body feels good”
After practice, Thibodeau was asked about Derrick Rose’s status.
“He’s doing a little bit more, a little bit more running, but he’s still nowhere near ready to practice,” said Thibodeau of Rose. “But he’s doing well. Spirit’s strong, body feels good. Just keep concentrating on the rehab and be a great teammate, and that’s what he’s doing.”
Thibodeau would not speculate on whether or not Rose would return to practice this season.
“There’s no timetable on that,” he said. “We want to make sure he’s completely healthy before he moves forward.”