By Mike McGraw
The Bulls have set their own bar pretty high these past two seasons, so the level of disappointment in their 4-3 start is open to debate.
They played six of those seven at home and came up short against the two best opponents they've played so far -- Oklahoma City and Boston, which delivered a 101-95 loss Monday at the United Center.
Derrick Rose is recovering from knee surgery, which clearly limits expectations, but the Bulls did win 67 percent of the games they played without him last season.
This is a different team, though, with six new players on the roster. It takes time to develop the sort of chemistry they had with the group that was basically intact for two years.
More evidence will be available soon, as the Bulls head out for the five-game circus road trip, which begins Wednesday in Phoenix.
"We're going to see," coach Tom Thibodeau said Tuesday at the Berto Center. "There's a lot of new guys with different strengths and weaknesses. We have to figure that out, but we have to do it quickly.
"You can't keep pushing it off, 'We've got new guys. We have new guys.' Yeah, we do have new guys, but we have to be ready to go."
The defense was especially bad Monday. Boston scored 58 points in the first half while shooting 59.5 percent from the field.
Kirk Hinrich missed that game with a right-hip strain but thinks there's a chance he will play against the Suns.
"I'm feeling better," he said. "I'm happy with the progress. I guess (playing will depend on) just how well I can move. Between now and tomorrow, just have to get as much treatment as I can.
"At some point, I'm going to have to really push it, test it and see how I feel."
Backup point guard Nate Robinson has played well for the most part, but he has had a tough time matching up defensively against elite point guards such as Boston's Rajon Rondo and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook.
The Bulls will see some good point guards on this trip, starting with Phoenix's Goran Dragic, then the Clippers' Chris Paul and Portland's impressive rookie Damian Lillard.
Hinrich isn't sure how the latest injury happened and is frustrated by some pesky early-season injuries. He missed two games in preseason with a thumb sprain and groin strain.
"Originally, after leaving the Minnesota game, I was pretty bummed out," he said. "I don't want to be in and out of the lineup. I want to be in the lineup, stay in the lineup.
"My focus right now is just to figure out the root of my muscular problems and what's causing these issues and take care of them."
This year's circus trip is relatively short, just five games, and the last one is at Milwaukee on Nov. 24. Thibodeau's first experience with the circus trip was a 4-3 record two years ago.
The Bulls didn't play in November last season because of the lockout but went 3-1 on a season-opening West Coast swing.
"I think we're all excited to get out on the road," Hinrich said. "It's a chance, being on the road, we're all we've got. We don't have the fans and everything like that behind us, so it's kind of a fun experience.
"So we'll go out there and hopefully play some really good basketball."
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