Derrick Rose’s lax leadership by example setting unfocused tone for Bulls

Everything about the Bulls revolves around Derrick Rose. Still.

The way everything about the Cavaliers revolves around LeBron James and everything about the Thunder revolves around Kevin Durant. That’s the way it works in the NBA galaxy; superstars are the sun with everyone else on the roster mere planets.

Rose needs to stop acting like he’s Neptune.

Stop swearing in disgust over poor communication and start standing up for the coach who had your back during both knee rehabilitations. Take the heat off coach Tom Thibodeau and turn it up on teammates following your lackadaisical lead.

Remove any doubt about who stands in Thibodeau’s circle. Remind everybody that the problems run deeper on the court than on the bench. Laugh off the idea of Thibodeau losing the locker room and vow to start winning again by playing traditional Bulls basketball, the style Thibs instilled.

The Bulls point guard can show as much awareness off the court as he does on it by recognizing recent adversity represents an opportunity to shift responsibility from Thibodeau’s methods to Rose’s mindset, where it belongs. That’s what strong leaders do. That’s what Pau Gasol did Wednesday after practice at the Advocate Center.

“He’s our coach and we believe in him, we believe in his spirit and what he’s trying to do with us,” said Gasol, the only player who spoke.

What Thibodeau has tried to do, so far unsuccessfully, is get these Bulls to buy into his edgy, overbearing approach like they did the day he arrived in 2010 — like they did when they were doing more with less. Who would have guessed the Bulls would struggle defensively the season after they unloaded Carlos Boozer?

It hardly seems coincidental that the Bulls began losing their identity as a relentless team shortly after Rose all but announced he will exert himself on his terms. If Rose’s remarks about preserving his body for his 2-year-old son’s high school graduation didn’t suggest publicly Rose was pacing himself this year, privately his spotty practice participation has.

When Taj Gibson questioned the Bulls’ heart after Monday’s loss and called for teammates to practice harder, you weren’t the only one wondering if he meant Rose, who doesn’t always participate fully. Thibodeau knows better than to single out Rose — the NBA remains a players league — but the coach’s consistent, cryptic comments about hard work reveal a coach increasingly frustrated by practice limitations.

It was Bill Parcells who said, “A team’s practices will predict its performance just about every time,” but nobody would be surprised to see that saying framed on Thibodeau’s office wall. His latest paean to preparation came Wednesday when Thibodeau eagerly answered a question about how many practices the Bulls have had every player available for every drill.

“Very few,” Thibodeau said. “And that’s really where you build chemistry and continuity.”

For the first time as the Bulls coach, team chemistry involves a combustible mix Thibodeau must balance carefully. Neither Rose nor Joakim Noah — the franchise’s two most important players — has exhibited the same whatever-it-takes attitude Thibodeau teams typically adopt.

Noah’s chronically bad knee at least offers him cover. Rose’s nonchalance at practice and in games when he takes possessions off defensively often sets the wrong tone for a Bulls team that has allowed five straight opponents to score 100 points. Yes, their current skid coincided with Mike Dunleavy’s ankle injury, but Dunleavy’s absence shouldn’t outweigh Rose’s presence.

The guy who still can take over games on offense when he needs must stop playing defense only when he wants. The guy with the most ability on the roster must start showing effort like someone trying to make the team. Once Rose commits to locking in for every minute of every practice and game, watch how quickly the Bulls follow. They remain capable.

As Thibodeau pointed out, the Bulls have had all five starters healthy for 15 games. They are 12-3 in those. Even as the Bulls cruised through December, not only did Thibodeau see this trouble looming but he anticipated worse.

“If you would have told me we would be 27-16 with guys missing all the games and practices we’ve missed, I would have been surprised,” Thibodeau said. “I’m proud of the fight these guys have. We have to bounce back.”

Thibodeau’s track record says they will, regardless of the report speculating his job was in jeopardy. The only other NBA coach perhaps more respected arrives Thursday night at the United Center with the Spurs: Gregg Popovich. Thibodeau’s unemployment would last barely longer than a Bulls possession.

It’s a ridiculous notion that, midway through a season still holding realistic Eastern Conference title hopes, the Bulls would contemplate firing Thibodeau. The organization still trusts Thibodeau’s body of work. Now would be a good time for Rose to prove he does too.

Source: MSN Sports

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