Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah have played limited minutes this preseason as they work their way back from injuries. Rose is under 18 minutes per game for the preseason and Noah is at around 20 minutes per game, and the center has also taken a rest day.
Noah's low minutes aren't really much of a surprise given he had knee surgery after last season and is still finding a groove, but I have been a bit surprised that Rose's minutes are so low given he sort of had a "preseason" with Team USA at the FIBA Basketball World Cup. I know the Bulls want to be extra cautious with Rose given his history, but I still expected him to be extended a bit more by now.
Some view these limited minutes as a sign that Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has learned the value resting guys. Apparently he's not thrilled about it though, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago.
When discussing the topic of preseason minutes prior to the Bulls' victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night, Thibodeau indirectly noted that several San Antonio Spurs stars played big minutes when the team played overseas last week:
"As I said, there's different approaches," he said. "You look at San Antonio, they played late and obviously, they won it. But when I'm looking at their box scores, I watched a little bit of their game, I think it's a strong message what they're saying right now. They're preparing themselves to defend their championship. And so in order to get that away from them, you're going to have to wrestle it away from them. They ain't just going to give it away. And so, I think your mindset has to be right."
It's true: Tim Duncan and Tony Parker played 34 and 35 minutes per game in the two preseason contests in Europe. That's unlike Gregg Popovich, who's known for resting players more than usual. Not a single Spur played over 30 minutes per game last season and Duncan was the team leader in the postseason at 32.7 minutes per game.
But while Popovich went against his norm by playing some of his stars big minutes in the preseason, he may have simply been doing that to put on a show for the international fans. Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard will all sit out when the Spurs return stateside to play the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, according to Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News. That sounds more like typical Popovich.
We all know about the criticisms of Thibs. While he has done a great job getting the most out of his rosters in the regular season, it's fair to wonder whether his balls-to-the-wall mentality hasn't always been for the best due to overworking some of the team's better players.
Luol Deng was consistently near the top of the minutes played leaderboard when he played for Thibodeau in Chicago. Jimmy Butler played 41 minutes per game after the All-Star Break last season, which was nearly two more minutes per game than the next closest player, Kevin Durant. Noah has led the league in minutes per game at the center position the last two years despite a history of lower-body injuries, and he underwent knee surgery following last season.
There was also some debate about how Thibodeau handled Rose during the ill-fated 2011-12 campaign. Rose battled numerous injuries throughout the year, sporadically missing time and ultimately playing in only 39 regular-season contests.
But when Rose returned from missing games that season, a common theme was playing him big minutes right away instead of easing him back into the lineup. He suffered his first injury in a 42-minute outing against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 10. After missing a game, he played 39 minutes and 41 minutes before going on the shelf for four more games. When he returned from that absence, he played nearly 38 minutes per game over the next eight games. Shortly after that, he went on the shelf again for five more games.
This pattern continued on and on throughout the season (just look at Rose's game log from that year, it's kind of ridiculous), and we all know how that year ended: Rose tore his ACL in Game 1 of the postseason and has never been the same since. Another serious knee injury followed last year, and there's plenty of concern about his long-term health. Thibodeau's minutes management is surely not the sole reason for Rose's freak injuries, but it may have played a part.
With Rose and Noah getting limited minutes this preseason, the Bulls appear to be trying harder when it comes to minutes management. But given Thibodeau's comments about the Spurs, one has to wonder if this is his decision or an edict from doctors and/or management. I'm guessing it's the latter.
The Bulls' two stars will obviously play more once the regular season starts, but it'll be interesting to see if any type of minutes restrictions still exist. Chicago has improved depth this season with the additions of Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic and Aaron Brooks, so Thibodeau has the opportunity to rest his players more in an attempt to keep them healthy.
Will he take that opportunity? It remains to be seen.
The original version of this was first on SBNation.com. It was altered for Blog a Bull.