OAKLAND --- Derrick Rose has spent the first quarter of the Bulls first two games trying to get his teammates involved. No more. The message has been delivered. Tom Thibodeau only needs one word to describe what he wants Rose to do to opposing defenses in an effort to jolt his team out of its offensive doldrums --- Attack.
The Bulls' coach is unleashing his MVP.
"We're a lot better when he's aggressive," Thibodeau said after practice Wednesday at the Golden State Warriors' facility. "It puts enormous pressure on our opponent's defense. When he's attacking we're getting easy baskets, we're getting to the line, he's getting people into foul trouble. It helps us in so many different ways. When we talk about him attacking we want him attacking on both ends. We want him attacking on defense also. That's when he's at his best. Right now, he's trying to get others involved early, which is good, but when they put two on the ball that's good for us. That's easy offense."
Rose isn't going to fight it. He had already diagnosed the problem after Monday night's 99-91 loss to the Warriors. He has only attempted four shots in the first quarters of the first two games. He has only been to the free-throw line twice.
"As long as we win," Rose said when asked if he minds being a score-first point guard. "My teammates realize that. The shots I take. I don't take that many bad shots. They know for us to win I have to attack. Coach already told them. Everybody on the team is cool with it and comfortable with it. That's all I have to do."
The Bulls watched film of games from last season and Rose was all over the place, driving to the basket, collapsing the defense, kicking the ball out to wide-open teammates and leading the break. They looked at film of the first two games this season against the Lakers and Warriors and Rose was trying to get his teammates involved or settling for long jumpers.
More shots by Rose means fewer for Carlos Boozer, but the Bulls' forward was emphatic about he and his teammates being at their best when Rose is a blur on the way to the basket.
"He's a natural born scorer," Boozer said. "We know that. One thing he's trying to learn as he continues to grow as a player is how to use his teammates. Honestly, he's been doing a great job of trying to figure it out but at the same time his first instinct is to score. We're a better team when he attacks and makes plays off what he sees. I'd rather him stay aggressive.
"Let's be honest, what person, what team have you seen that has been able to stop it? Nobody. We're a better team when we're attacking and playing fast and playing off his instincts because teams are at a disadvantage because he's going to make a play or a shot or set something up or one of us. Him staying aggressive makes us a better team."
Thibodeau wants the entire team to play more aggressively in an effort to get more layups, second shots and free throws. Too often players have been settling for long jumpers. He remembers what it was like to try to defend Rose and an aggressive Bulls' team when he was an assistant with the Celtics and wishes that experience on others.
"I know what it's like when you're sitting on the opposing bench and he's attacking," Thibodeau said. "That's something you don't want to see. His shooting has improved greatly from his first year but if you're sitting on the opposing bench that's what you'd rather have. You don't want him attacking and getting into the paint and breaking you down.
"There's nobody faster in the league from end line to end line so we've got to take advantage of that."
Knowing when to take over a game and when to involve teammates is a balancing act. Rose is still learning. Having only a two-week training camp and two exhibition games has also limited the time he has been able to spend with his teammates on the floor, but he doesn't have to worry about that balance now that the decision has been made for him.
"I'll do it the same way I did last year where they follow after me," Rose said. "The first two games in the first quarter we were kind of sluggish. We didn't start off well. The only thing I can think of between last year and this year is this year I shot less shots in the first quarter. Last year, it was at least 8 or nine shots in the first quarter just to get a groove going. That's the difference."
Rose seemed delighted by the idea of being told to score more.
"That can easily be fixed," he said with a grin. "Me shooting the ball, me attacking, trust me, I'm all right."