Through seven games of the 2012-2013 NBA season Luol Deng and Joakim Noah are both in the top five for minutes-per-game for the entire league. With the absence of Derrick Rose the rest of the Chicago Bulls have been given new responsibilities in order to keep the team in contention until his return. The team has begun the season 4-3, and have done so by playing every game as if it were a game seven. Deng and Noah have carried the load, both playing over 39 minutes per game thus far.
Coach Tom Thibodeau is infamous for giving his best players heavy minutes, including Rose, who tore his ACL in the last few minutes of a blowout playoff win. Many once viewed this as a positive for the coach, respecting his desire to win every contest, however, that feeling has evolved since Rose’s injury.
Fans of the Bulls are now more open minded to the idea of player rest. Many feel this team can be a contender upon Rose’s return, or even just a team that can play spoiler, but this will be an impossibility if the rest of the team is banged up and exhausted.
No one wants to go to a game and feel as if the team is not doing everything they can to win, but the most important basketball is not played in November or December. The NBA season is a marathon and many of the contenders treat it as such, resting stars in back to back games, limiting minutes, and benching players in the fourth quarter of games already in hand.
Perhaps the Bulls, and Thibodeau, need to ease off the gas and take the end of the season into consideration. Rose has always had the fate of this team on his shoulders, but it will be more stressful than ever if the roster is burnt out when he finally suits up.