Versatility will be key in playoffs for Bulls
The top seed in the Eastern Conference was a nice little badge for the Bulls to wear at the end of the regular season the last two years, but when push came to shove, it was meaningless.
When Derrick Rose comes back in about a month, however, he could be returning to the Bulls’ most complete roster since they made him the No. 1 pick out of Memphis.
Not only because of the team’s trademark defense but because of its versatility, especially with the development of the bench in the last month.
Kirk Hinrich will become the backup point guard when Rose returns, but he also can play shooting guard. Taj Gibson can play either forward spot or center and can guard four positions. Marco Belinelli is a pure shooting guard, but they’ve been putting the ball in his hands for pick-and-rolls lately, taking advantage of his point-guard tendencies.
Then there’s Jimmy Butler, who has shown an ability to guard Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Tayshaun Prince but has the versatility to guard at least three positions, while being a finisher around the rim.
“That’s one of the things that’s unique,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said Tuesday. “[Butler] has the ability to start or come off the bench. In some cases, a guy has a hard time starting or coming off the bench. Jimmy does both very effectively. He also has a very quick motor.
‘‘Oftentimes, he didn’t play a lot in the first half and ends up finishing the game. Whether you put him in early in the game, late or in the middle, he handles everything well.
“I think his toughness is a big aspect. Now that he’s gotten more experience, he’s gotten better and better. I want him to continue to do so. He’s a very important part of the team.’’
And a very important part of what Thibodeau wants to do to the opposition. It’s about matchups in the playoffs, and with a healthy Rose, there isn’t a team in the East that the Bulls won’t be able to match up with.
“Yeah, because we have versatility,’’ Thibodeau said when asked about the rotation being so fluid lately. “And you just hit on it: It’s the matchups. Some teams play small and quick. Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng can guard two, three and four. That gives you flexibility.
‘‘Depending on what the game needs, we can go to a lot of different things. We can go offense, too. We’re pleased with the way the bench is coming along. We have great versatility.’’
NOTES: Jimmy Butler was born in Houston, the host city for the All-Star Game, and he would love nothing more than an invite, whether it’s the rookie-sophomore game or the dunk contest. He’s all in either way.
“It would mean a lot,’’ Butler said. “It would mean I get to see my family again. They would get to see me play All-Star Weekend. It’d be big.
‘‘Who would think a little kid from Tomball [Texas] would be playing for the Chicago Bulls and in All-Star Weekend one day?’’
† Derrick Rose again participated in practice Tuesday, but don’t ask his teammates for details.
“I didn’t watch him, sorry,’’ Joakim Noah said.
When asked if he was told to say that, Noah just smiled at reporters.