Fire

Thibodeau-Bulls rift truly headline-worthy?

707906.png

Thibodeau-Bulls rift truly headline-worthy?

An ESPN.com report quoted Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau as being "dismayed" about the lack of progress in reaching a new contract extension. While it may be new to you, this isn't news.

After winning the NBA's Coach of the Year award in his first season as an NBA head coach, it's only natural Thibodeau would want to be rewarded for his service. However, Thibodeau is currently in the second year of his contract and the Bulls have the option to bring him back for a third year, something that's universally expected to occur.

"I don't know where that's coming from and I'm not worried about any of that stuff," Thibodeau said after Friday's win over the Pistons. "I'm under contract and I'm fine with everything here."

What else would you expect him to say? Let's be logical, folks: Thibodeau is known as one of the most focus and intense people in the business, so at this late juncture in the season--or even earlier in the campaign, when a New York media outlet first reported his frustration about his contract situation--do you think he would strategically leak his concerns, taking away from the Bulls' goal of winning a title?

Highly unlikely. Sure, Thibodeau is probably disappointed that the Bulls haven't already addressed the issue, as well as the fact that he's one of the league's lowest-paid head coaches, but knowing the potential of this team and being a student of the game, on and off the court--specifically the Bulls' track record of dealing with coaches' contracts as an organization, with Phil Jackson and Scott Skiles as two examples--he surely can't be surprised at the process.

He's also very likely aware that the grass isn't greener elsewhere. Looking around the league at possible upcoming vacancies, New York comes to mind with Mike D'Antoni starting the season as a lame-duck head coach and Mike Woodson as an interim coach--albeit a successful one, thus far--and with Thibodeau's history as a Knicks assistant, it would seem like just the opportunity to lure him away.

But even if the Knicks were interested, Thibodeau knows that he's already put his stamp on this Bulls team, he won't ever find a more coachable superstar than Derrick Rose, he wouldn't find a more ideal supporting cast and even taking into consideration the amount of talent on New York's roster, the relentless competitor would actually be taking a step back in his quest for a championship. Does that sound like a move the ever-calculating tactician would make?

Don't fret, Bulls fans: Thibodeau's contract situation will be resolved in due time. Even if they appear to be dragging their feet in doing so--and like any fiscally-sound operation, they're being prudent in waiting to pay him the big bucks, to Thibodeau's consternation, at least for the time being--the Bulls' braintrust understands there's not really an upgrade from Thibodeau available on the market, as long as Phil Jackson stays retired (and the triangle offense isn't exactly a perfect fit for Derrick Rose's skill set) and not to mention, they wouldn't want to chance of alienating their players.

"Of course--I'm not going to give you guys the answer I'm supposed to say--but not just for me, but for this organization and what he's done, and if we don't bring him back, somebody's going to take him. He's that good," said Luol Deng, who has developed into an All-Star under Thibodeau and along with Rose, has probably benefited the most from his tutelage. "I didn't even know there's a situation. He's not the type of guy who's going to talk to us about it. We're not the type of team that's going to talk about it. I think we all want to see him stay here for many years to come, but that's not up to me."

Deng will likely get his--and Bulls' fans--wish, but thinking about far-fetched scenarios, like arguably the league's top coach simply walking away due to lack of interest, makes for good headlines in the meantime. It hasn't been a perfect world under Thibodeau's reign, as his laser-like focus can rankle people to a degree, but nobody questions his work ethic, intent and most importantly, results, all of which make the likelihood of the Bulls not bringing him back and even after 20 years as an assistant before getting a shot, perceived anger and impatience at the slowness in getting his first extension as a head coach, a tad overblown.

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

schwein-221.jpg
USA TODAY

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

Coach Veljko Paunovic still went with a second-choice lineup to start the Fire's preseason match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Wednesday, but the second half featured the first preseason action for Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Schweinsteiger came on for the second half, along with Nemanja Nikolic, Johan Kappelhof and a few other Fire regulars. The German sat out the first four preseason games, but looked sharp in his 45 minutes.

One of the highlights was this smooth move between two defenders:

Schweinsteiger also had an impressive switch pass to set up a shot for second-round pick Diego Campos in the final minutes of the game. Campos drilled the shot on target, but was unable to beat the goalkeeper.

The team did not say Schweinsteiger was injured despite the repeated absences in matches. The Fire have dealt with injuries to Matt Polster, Luis Solignac, Daniel Johnson and rookie Grant Lillard this preseason. None of those four, along with Dax McCarty, played in the 0-0 draw.

The Fire next play Saturday at Orlando in a final match in Florida before returning to Chicago. The Fire also play Tulsa, the team's USL affiliate, at Toyota Park on March 3 before taking on Sporting Kansas City in the season opener on March 10.

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

cuban.png
AP

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

The Bulls made headlines on Tuesday when VP John Paxson announced that David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne would be entering the rotation, thus continuing the youth movement in Chicago.

On the surface the moves make sense. The 24-year-old Nwaba, the 25-year-old Felicio and the 23-year-old Cameron Payne will be replacing 28-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Robin Lopez and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. The Bulls want to see what they have in these younger players who haven't played much; they already know what they have in Lopez and Holiday, and Grant (like the other two) is under contract through next year.

OK, got that? Here's why they're making the move: they're sitting 8th in the NBA Lottery standings and really want to move into the top-5 to give themselves a chance at what should be a loaded front-end of the draft class. It's pretty obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either named Gar Forman, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg.

And here's why: On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined a whopping $600,000 by the NBA for comments he made on a podcast regarding tanking. The Mavericks are currently 18-40, the third worst record in the NBA. This comes a season after they finished 33-49, netting them the No. 9 pick that turned into talented point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

So when Cuban was asked about the best interests of his Dallas team, which touts young talent but clearly isn't headed for the postseason in 2018, he said this on the House Call with Dr. J Podcast:

"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren't competing for the playoffs. I was like, 'Look, losing is our best option. [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we're not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that's the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability."

Cuban isn't wrong, and the Mavericks sure as hell aren't the only team tanking. But to come right now and admit that losing is the team's best option wasn't, as Cuban predicted, going to sit well with the league office.

Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo with the fine that said Cuban's comments "which concerned his perspective on the team's competitive success this season" were "detrimental to the NBA."

So while the Bulls are going about their business in trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible, don't expect anyone to admit it's the reason behind their personnel moves. There are 600,000 reasons why.