Bulls not underestimating Cavs in road opener
November 2, 2012, 2:29 pm
CLEVELAND — On paper, the Bulls’ first four games — Wednesday’s season-opening win over Sacramento, Friday’s road opener at Cleveland, hosting New Orleans in the second half of a back-to-back and Tuesday’s home game against Orlando — seem like virtual cakewalks against young, inexperienced teams. Tom Thibodeau doesn’t see it that way.
The ultra-prepared Bulls head coach praised the Kings’ explosiveness both before and after his team outlasted them, and coming into Friday’s tilt, his message has been similar. One of his frequently-used mantras, “know your opponent,” has definitely taken affect.
“I think they’ve got a good team. They run a lot of pick-and-rolls. Kyrie [Irving] creates a lot for them and last game — I know it’s early in the season — but they were going out and running,” Luol Deng told CSNChicago.com Friday morning, prior to the Bulls’ morning shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena. “[Anderson] Varejao’s playing well. It’s a tough game. It’s one that we want to come in and get. Early games are always tough. Teams are playing hard, teams are trying to prove that they’re better, players are trying to show their coach that they’re better and those games are tough."
It’s no surprise Deng is familiar with Irving, last season’s Rookie of the Year and his fellow Duke product via New Jersey — or Varejao, a veteran, who was playing for Cleveland when LeBron James was still in town and the Central Division foes faced off in the playoffs. But if he showed that much deference to a clearly-inferior opponent, albeit an undefeated one after knocking off Washington in their season opener Tuesday, imagine what Thibodeau would say, especially after the Cavaliers beat the Bulls in an exhibition game.
“They’re tough. Irving, he’s an elite point guard, makes people better. Varejao’s coming off a huge game. [Tristan] Thompson is tough. [Daniel] Gibson comes in off the bench. [Dion] Waiters, a young player, very explosive. They’ve got a lot of weapons,” Thibodeau explained. “We have a good read. You have to study and know your opponent, and most of these teams, they have a mix of young guys, older guys. You look at a guy like Varejao, he’s been around a long time. Gibson’s been around a long time. This is the second time around for Irving. So, whoever they have out there. [Donald] Sloan has a done good job backing up the point.
“They’ve added good young players. Varejao’s healthy this year, which is huge for them, and Irving is a very special player because of his ability to make everyone else better. Waiters is real crafty off the dribble, gives them a multiple pick-and-roll game. So, they have good young talent,” he continued. “Of course, Varejao has a unique skill set, brings a lot of energy. Thompson is high energy, athletic, tough and I think because of what Irving and Waiters can do off the dribble — if their penetration is breaking you down, it sets up the second shot for them — so they can beat you with the second shot. So, you have to have a multiple-effort mentality, pack the paint and you have to gang-rebound. They have a lot of good young players.”
Thibodeau was especially complimentary of Irving, who appears poised to join the group of tremendous young point guards in the NBA, including the Bulls’ Derrick Rose. This game, just like the two teams’ battles last season won’t feature both young stars on the court together at the same time, as injuries continue to ruin that potential matchup.
“One, his demeanor. He seems like he’s a very under control type of player,” Thibodeau said about Irving. “He plays with a lot of poise and I think his understanding of the game, so he’s a special player and he showed that last year.”
Tags: Cleveland Cavaliers
, Tom Thibodeau
, Luol Deng
, Chicago Bulls
, Anderson Varejao
, Kyrie Irving
, Tristan Thompson
, dion waiters