Bulls

Sam: Thibodeau a perfect fit for Bulls, Chicago

Sam: Thibodeau a perfect fit for Bulls, Chicago

Sunday, May 1, 2011
Posted: 7:05 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

He could have been talking about a number of things.

The opportunity to coach Derrick Rose and the rest of his selfless team. Being in Chicago in general. Being an NBA head coach. Winning the 2011 NBA Coach of the Year award. But he specifically referenced coaching the Bulls.

If it meant 20 years to get this job, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau at Sundays press conference, where he was presented the aforementioned award by Bulls general manager Gar Forman at the Berto Center. It was well worth the wait.

Whatever questions observers had about Thibodeau when he first accepted the position his hard-driving reputation, his emphasis on defense, his lack of head coaching experience they were all answered this season, as he led the Bulls to a league-high 62 wins. More significant, however, was the fact that he was a perfect fit for both the team and the city.

When you look at the numbers this year, its easy to see the impact Tom had on this basketball team, said Bulls general manager Gar Forman, before listing a litany of statistics that indicated the teams success this season. But to me, its about much more than that.

In order for us to continue to build towards becoming a championship-caliber team, this team needed an identity and a base to it, he continued. You see the pace and the flow that we practice with. You see the attention to detail on a daily basis, the accountability each and every day and you see the habits that are formed.

That is a huge reason why weve had the success that weve had up to this point. Tom has created a culture on the floor with this team of professionalism, of work, of unselfishness and teamwork, of communication, of trust and through that, he has laid a foundation that will not only serve this team this year, but will continue to serve this team for years to come.

In a blue-collar city, coaching a blue-collar team, Thibodeaus understated work ethic stands out. Clearly a bit uncomfortable in the spotlight, he eschews praise and like his players, deflects it elsewhere.

"Obviously Im flattered, humbled and honored to receive this award, but I think it represents a lot more than just me. It certainly reflects our team and our entire organization. It starts at the top and of course goes down to our great management team. Im very fortunate to have such a great coaching staff, said Thibodeau, who proceeded to thank his entire coaching staff by name, before singling out the Bulls ownership for giving me a chance, as well as Forman and Bulls vice president John Paxson for assembling the squad that garnered home-court advantage throughout the current postseason.

We have a great management team here in Gar and John, and I think through their careful planning and selection of players, we not only have talented players, we have guys with high character, he continued. Its a lot more than just selecting talent, its building a team and thats what theyve done. So, when I look at the players we have and how hard theyve worked all season, and how committed theyve been from the start of not only playing together, but playing for each other Im just thrilled and honored to have the privilege of coaching this team.

Not only was he thankful for the opportunity to coach the Bulls, but Thibodeau saw early on that the team had a chance to be a special group.

I realized in training camp, the way we were practicing, how hard guys were going and how well they were concentrating, he said. When I saw their approach, I knew it would be good. I didnt know how good, but I knew it would get better as the season went along. We took on some injuries early, we had a tough early schedule and our bench guys came through with flying colors, so I knew we had quality depth. I also liked the veteran leadership that we had at the end of the bench.

We wanted to have a plan going in and we began with the end in mind. We felt very good about the team that we had in place, Thibodeau continued. We didnt know where wed end up and we still dont. We still feel like theres a long way to go.

Added Forman: I knew the first couple weeks that he was here, that we had hit a grand slam. You could just see the way he related to our players, the amount of work he put in, the knowledge that he had.

The most-overlooked aspect of Thibodeau as a coach is the enjoyment he gets out of coaching. Obviously he loves what he does to have invested so much time in his career, but his intense sideline demeanor and droll persona in front of the media often gives the impression that its more of a duty than a pleasure.

Its an honor and a privilege to coach these guys, said Thibodeau, who also referenced the multiple players in attendance. The fun part is the winning for me, but again, its enjoyable knowing that we have a group of guys that have put a lot into something. Every day, they come in, they study, they prepare, they practice hard and that, to me, makes it enjoyable.

Its their willingness to work, their willingness to share and I saw that from the first day. I saw how serious the team was to its approach, how much they put into it, he continued. When you get a team that truly commits and everybody puts everything they have into it every day, then you dont have to worry about anything else. Youve done all you can do and thats how I measure success. Were willing to live with the results. We know if were willing to do the right things every day, good will come.

Or, to put it simply, it was worth the wait.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

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USA TODAY

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler was absent from the scoresheet of the All-Star Game, unless you count a “DNP-Coaches’ Decision” as activity. Whether due to the All-Star festivities of the weekend or even the grinding minutes he plays under Tom Thibodeau, it wasn’t truly surprising to see him want to have a night off of sorts.

But what was mildly surprising was the reflection he displayed on Saturday at All-Star Media Day in reference to his time with the Chicago Bulls. Usually, Butler’s armor is up because of his feelings surrounding his draft-night departure.

“I learned a lot in Chicago,” Butler said. “Just all through the season and life in general. What to do, what not to do and how to adapt to any situation that you’ve been in. I’ve done that to the best of my abilities. I have a ways to go in that.”

It’s clear he’s still grasping the weight of his words as the best player on a team, or at least, the player whose words impact everything around him.

“A people pleaser? No, I just didn’t say much,” Butler said. “Now I just don’t care. I never talked whenever I was in the league at an early age. It really didn’t matter, nothing I did was gonna make or break us when it comes to losing a game. Now it does and I have a lot to say. Half the time it’s not the right time or right way to say it but it’s okay.”

Whether it was the battles with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg or the internal struggles in the Bulls’ locker room through his ascension from bench warmer to rotation player to impact player to now, a legitimate star, he’s modifying his approach—just a tad.

“I’ve never been the best player on my own team. I was in Tomball,” he joked, in reference to his beginnings in small town Texas. “I wasn’t in junior college. At Marquette I wasn’t. I’m probably not now. In Chicago I wasn’t. You just pick up on it, watch others and learn.”

He admitted to writing in a journal and reading self-help books now that he’s in Minnesota. The novel he’s reading now, “Faith, Forward, Future” is authored by Chad Veach, a Los Angeles pastor and the subtitle of the book says “Moving past your disappointments, delays and destructive thinking.”

Whether he started the book following a slow start with the Timberwolves in November, where his nightly numbers looked like one of a high-level role player, he took some self-evaluation before leading the charge since, playing like an MVP candidate with 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 49 percent shooting since the start of December.

“It’s relatively new. Yeah, basketball is still basketball but it’s hard when somebody else is coming in and roles change overnight,” Butler said. “You gotta see where you fit in with the group. At the end of the day you gotta win. I didn’t feel the way I was playing was our best opportunity to win games.”

Bringing along the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Towns being a fellow All-Star for the first time, has been a process.

“I’ve never actually had to be a leader,” Butler said. “I just always done what I was supposed to do, didn’t say much and played hard. Now you know, everybody wants to call someone a leader.”

He disputes taking a softer hand, especially as Towns and Wiggins seem to struggle with sustaining concentration at critical moments. The Timberwolves won’t be able to make those mistakes during the playoffs, but he’s being more selective with his words.

“I’m not soft,” he said. “If I see something wrong, I speak on it. If you don’t like it, oh well. You’ll get over it.”

One thing he could take a bird’s eye view of was the aftermath of LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s comments to the “Uninterrupted”, where they were criticized by cable news hosts for speaking out against President Donald Trump.

No stranger to criticism, Butler would likely have the same approach if he dipped his toes into that arena.

“I like it. You got the right to say what you want and you speak on what you think is right,” Butler said. “Good for them. And they are magnified in a very big way. They embrace it and they’re doing the right thing, I’m all for it.”

And if the day comes where he doesn’t stick to sports, Butler’s directness and lack of diplomacy would certainly cause an interesting reaction.

“I don’t care. Whatever I believe in, I believe in,” Butler said. “Everybody else does it. You see everybody on Twitter and the Internet doing it and saying what they want to say. We just have a different job than the person to our left and right.”

Well, not quite a warm and fuzzy Jimmy Butler.

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”