One of the major questions when the Bulls take the court for the first time Tuesday night is the state of the bench.
The group of reserves dubbed the "Bench Mob" was a vital part of the team's success the past two seasons. But thanks mostly to some economic concerns, there has been heavy turnover on the bench.
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Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Vladimir Radmanovic and Nazr Mohammed are in. C.J. Watson (Nets), Kyle Korver (Hawks), Ronnie Brewer (Knicks) and Omer Asik (Rockets) have moved on.
The one constant is Taj Gibson, the fourth-year power forward who faces restricted free agency next summer if he doesn't sign an extension by Oct. 31.
"I've been very encouraged by the way this unit's working," coach Tom Thibodeau said following Monday's practice at the United Center. "Taj is a big part of that unit, so he's more or less the leader."
How does he like that role, leader of the Bench Mob?
"It's crazy because they're actually listening to me," Gibson said. "Especially on 'D,' I'm real vocal now, being that I play (center) and (power forward). I'm real vocal. Guys are really listening to me and helping me out. It's been great."
When it comes to the rotation, it seems pretty clear that Robinson will back up Kirk Hinrich at point guard, while rookie Marquis Teague, 19, learns the ropes.
One question that remains to be seen is if Thibodeau keeps Luol Deng on the floor with four reserves, which happened regularly last season. Or will Deng take a seat with the rest of the starters while Radmanovic or second-year forward Jimmy Butler step in?
"The way Thibs has been working me and Lu, especially playing with different sets and different units -- it's going to be fun to see how we're going to work things out," Gibson said. "It's all about being ready when your name is called."
Somewhere like home:
Center Nazr Mohammed will play his first game for the home team in his hometown Tuesday night. He was asked if it felt strange coming back to Chicago after being gone for basically 17 years between college and the NBA.
"The funny part about it is I expected it to be weird, but it's not weird at all," he said. "For one thing, I live way out in the North Shore. And the North Shore is like any suburb in America.
"So I feel like I'm in OKC, Charlotte -- wherever it may be, suburbs in these different cities. It's just like another city."
Waiting for Rose:
The Bulls held an event for season-ticket holders Monday afternoon at the United Center. The fans, just like the players, will have to get used to the absence of Derrick Rose for a few months.
"It's crazy, because you're used to just hearing him say small things like, 'Let's push … championship,' small things just to encourage you every day," Taj Gibson said of Rose.
"Not having him is a big effect, but we understand he's pushing through. His recovery is going great.
"We see him every day, right when we're done practicing, he's on the sideline going hard with us, doing his rehab. The whole team is pulling for him, and we know he'll be back soon."