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As Bulls bench suffers, starters racking up too many minutes

Nov 27, 2012, 6:26 PM EST

Tom Thibodeau AP

It has been one of the secrets of the Bulls regular-season success the past couple years — coach Tom Thibodeau fully trusted a bench made up of Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson. They could play big minutes, play tough defense and either hold or stretch leads the starters gave them.

All those guys are gone and their replacements haven’t cut it. Nazr Mohammed and Marco Belinelli don’t even touch the court. The three guys off the bench that do — Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson — are not playing near the level of last year’s bench mob.

It shows in the Bulls record. And it’s starting show in the minutes the starters are starting to rack up, notes Mark Schanowski at CSNChicago.com.

Luol Deng and Joakim Noah rank first and second in the league in average minutes played. Deng played 47 minutes in the nightmarish loss to Milwaukee, getting a one minute break midway through the second quarter, even though the Bulls were way in front most of the night….

The NBA season is a grueling marathon, and even the fittest players can break down if not given proper rest. All five Bulls’ starters have had injury issues in the past, and it’s crucial to keep them healthy until Derrick Rose can get back. We know Thibodeau wants to win every game, and no one can blame him for that. But looking at the bigger picture, finding minutes for the likes of Belinelli, Mohammed and even Vladimir Radmanovic could keep the starters healthy and fresh for a stretch run with Rose back in the line-up.

Thibodeau needs to balance staying within striking distance of Milwaukee on top of the Central Division and having guys rested and healthy enough to make a run with Derrick Rose once he does return sometime after the All-Star Break (most likely).

But this is the price the Bulls management consciously made to get short term deals so they can chase another big free agent to pair with Rose in 2014. They can’t expect to cut corners — to not match offers like the one Asik got — and have no impacts.

  1. eventhorizon04 - Nov 27, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    Disappointing.

    I know a lot of Bulls fans tried to argue that the new bench group was just as good as the old, but that’s proving not to be the case. The old group had chemistry and – more importantly – a lot of talent. Omer Asik is playing great as a starter – 10 pts, 12 rbs, 1.3 blocks in 32 MPG – and he was a BACKUP last year in Chicago.

  2. stayhigh_247 - Nov 27, 2012 at 8:03 PM

    Even with a healthy pre injury D Rose this team isnt going anywhere with this bench. Losing Asik was a given, but they should have kept Korver and Ronnie Brewer. Not having a mobile big like Asik is hard to overcome

  3. philtration - Nov 27, 2012 at 9:04 PM

    This is just what I expected.
    The players they brought in are just cast offs and they are nowhere near the talent level as the guys they replaced.

    The Stench Mob.

  4. asublimeday - Nov 28, 2012 at 1:21 AM

    Win NOW. Stop feeding us this crap about chasing free agents. There are plenty of franchises who rarely take years off and never make excuses. The lakers, celtics, and spurs never talk about “well, you just wait until two years down the road!”

    Ugh.

  5. asublimeday - Nov 28, 2012 at 1:23 AM

    Even with a healthy pre injury D Rose this team isnt going anywhere with this bench. Losing Asik was a given, but they should have kept Korver and Ronnie Brewer. Not having a mobile big like Asik is hard to overcome
    ——
    Asik is brutally slow and has the hands of an 80-year old man.

    His defense is insane and he brings energy hitting the boards, but you’ll never hear anybody who knows a lick about basketball call him “mobile”.

  6. beardown2489 - Nov 28, 2012 at 1:27 AM


    Disappointing.

    I know a lot of Bulls fans tried to argue that the new bench group was just as good as the old, but that’s proving not to be the case. The old group had chemistry and – more importantly – a lot of talent. Omer Asik is playing great as a starter – 10 pts, 12 rbs, 1.3 blocks in 32 MPG – and he was a BACKUP last year in Chicago.”

    Never heard any bulls fans saying this. Are you a bulls fan? I think most accepted the facts once we saw which way management was going during the offseason. I just hope the minutes these guys are picking up dont hurt Their long term health. Noah has fought planters in his foot before. Last thing I want is that popping back up in a throw away season.

    • eventhorizon04 - Nov 28, 2012 at 9:41 AM

      Then you didn’t read the comments here at ProBasketball Talk during the offseason, as Bulls fan after Bulls fan (whenever Kurt would dare mention that perhaps the mass-replacement of the Bulls bench could lead to problems for the Bulls this year) said that

      1. If you look at the players individually, some are clear dropoffs from their counterparts last year, but some are almost equal.

      2. As long as the Bulls have Tom Thibodeau, they’ll always be a good team.

      I think Thibodeau’s a terrific coach, and he can help his team overcome the loss of his superstar (Rose) OR the loss of his terrific bench, but not both.

  7. jhuck92 - Nov 28, 2012 at 2:03 AM

    i honestly don’t know why the bulls execs. broke up the bench mob, a tried and true formula that earned them the best record in the NBA.

    • eventhorizon04 - Nov 28, 2012 at 9:44 AM

      Seemed clear to me that they didn’t think the Bulls could make a deep post-season run this year with Rose likely to not be at 100% even when he does come back in the spring.

      Bulls locked up Thibodeau and then gave themselves as much cap flexibility as possible for the future by letting their bench mob go.

      I’ve said that the result of these moves is to put the Bulls in an excellent position for the 2013 season but hurt them this season…and that seems to be the case.

  8. glink123 - Nov 29, 2012 at 1:17 AM

    This Bulls squad, minus Rose, is about a fun to watch as the Tim Floyd coached team. I seriously can’t watch this team anymore. Give me Noah, Deng, and you can dump the rest of that garbage.

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