The Bulls can't look back. Owning the best regular-season record and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals means little now, or at least that was one of the messages coach Tom Thibodeau delivered to players before the first training camp practice on Friday night.
How do I know? First Thibodeau told the media that during his post-practice press conference. A few minutes later, Carlos Boozer repeated it.
"Last year was last year," Thibodeau said. "This is now. The important thing for us is not to look back, to be focused on training camp, going step by step. We have to be careful not to skip steps. We have to become a great practice team first and get ready for that first night."
A few minutes later, when Boozer repeated the same mantra, Thibodeau's lips didn't move.
"You can't skip steps, "Boozer said. "To be a good team you have to go through everything we went through last year. Last year is over. This is a new year. We're starting 0-0. Every team is. You build yourself up. This is the first day of training camp. We're going to get better every day. As long as we come and do our work everyday --- and our team will --- we'll get better every day."
Players repeating the message delivered by a coach occurs in every sport. Here's my question: As much as I respect the philosophy behind the can't-skip-steps approach, how can the Bulls not do just that? A two-month preparation period has been reduced to a couple weeks. Like it or not, teams are going to have to skip steps, whether they want to admit it or not.