Late Saturday night the New Orleans Hornets made official their hiring of Golden State Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry, filling one of the three remaining head-coaching vacancies in the NBA.
The news came one day after the Orlando Magic hired Scott Skiles, leaving the Bulls and Denver Nuggets as the two remaining teams without a head coach.
So, with the top three head coaching vacancies - Oklahoma City hired Billy Donovan earlier this month - the likelihood increases that Tom Thibodeau, a coach who won 255 games in five seasons with the Bulls - could sit out the 2015-16 season.
The Nuggets are reportedly still considering Melvin Hunt, who went 10-13 in an interim role after Denver fired Brian Shaw in March, for the position. But Thibodeau has not been linked to that opening - Mike D'Antoni and Scott Brooks have been - and obviously won't be in Chicago next season - Fred Hoiberg appears tabbed for that position.
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]
There's upside for Thibodeau to remain on the sidelines for a season, collecting paychecks from the $9 million the Bulls owe him after firing him with two years left on his deal. Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson has reported that he'll sit out this season and wait to see what opens up in 2016-17, when the Lakers may be an option, among other teams.
There's also a chance the Cavaliers part ways with first year head coach David Blatt, who despite Cleveland's successful season and NBA Finals berth may still be on the chopping block - though owner Dan Gilbert shot down those reports via his Twitter account. Thibodeau hasn't been linked to Cleveland - no one has, considering the Cavs are still playing - but coaching LeBron James and Kyrie Irving has its obvious benefits.
One last note is Chris Sheridan reporting last week that an unexpected team "nobody sees coming" will fire their coach "in the next couple days." Nothing has happened since, but depending on the situation it could change where Thibodeau winds up and when he's back in the NBA.
The Bulls square off against the Sixers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, with coverage beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live. Here are three things to watch as the Bulls begin the stretch run of their regular season.
1. The new rotation: Most of the Bulls’ rotation looks the same, but the addition of David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne will have a different feel. The Bulls clearly want to get a look at these guys before the end of the regular season, meaning they’re not just going to get sporadic minutes. They’ll have to play through their mistakes, play out-matched at times and be put in uncomfortable situations. But the Bulls need to see what they have, especially in Payne, who has missed the entire season to this point with a broken foot.
2. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: They’re quite the 1-2 punch and have the Sixers looking at their first playoff appearance since Derrick Rose hadn’t yet torn an ACL. Yeah, that’s a long time. Embiid just finished his first All-Star appearance (starting in his second year) and Simmons is the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will have their hands full with these two. Luckily…
3. Kris Dunn is back: The Bulls wanted to get Dunn some run before heading to All-Star Weekend to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, and he looked healthy in that thumping against the Raptors last week. The good news is John Paxson says Dunn won’t be on a minutes limit, which means he’s healthy. That, of course, is more important than how he’s playing. It’ll be fun to see him, LaVine and Markkanen play together down the stretch. Their numbers together aren’t great, but the Bulls are 2-2 with all three in the lineup, and tanking or not…it’s more fun to watch when those three are rolling.
On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times), Hub Arkush (ProFootball Weekly) and Jason Goch (SB Nation) join Kap on the panel.
The guys debate which team will finish with a higher draft pick when the season ends: Bulls or Blackhawks?
Plus, hear their reaction to the MLB’s new pace-of-play rule change.
Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: