Bulls

Kap: Loyalty played major role in Thibodeau's fallout with Bulls

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Kap: Loyalty played major role in Thibodeau's fallout with Bulls

A week has passed since the Bulls fired Tom Thibodeau and replaced him with Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. Much has been made of the relationship between Thibodeau and the Bulls front office, specifically John Paxson and Gar Forman. A relationship that has been strained for a long time and one that was public knowledge well before the 2014-15 season even began.

It takes two sides to make a relationship work and it takes two sides to make a relationship fail. On that account both parties deserve some culpability. However, after dismissing Thibodeau the Bulls took the unusual step of releasing a statement that was highly critical of their former coach and painted him as someone who is extremely tough to get along with in the work environment.

Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has long had a reputation for being great to work for and someone who is extremely loyal to his employees. For him to be as critical as he was in the Bulls press release opened eyes around the NBA and especially here in Chicago. So why did the Bulls take what some feel was an unnecessary shot as they were kicking their highly successful coach to the curb?

[MORE: Tom Thibodeau, on Bulls firing: 'I have no regrets']

After Jeff Van Gundy ripped the Bulls organization during a nationally televised game on Jan. 23 and called into question the lack of support for previous Bulls coaches, the front office was livid. In fact, Reinsdorf felt Thibodeau was exceptionally disloyal because it was one of his closest friends (Van Gundy) doing the ripping and Reinsdorf spoke to Thibodeau about the on air incident demanding that it not happen again.

However, the sniping continued on multiple fronts and for Reinsdorf that was the end. He could put up with the intense coaching, some front office friction, and the lack of support from Thibodeau in some areas of the Bulls organization who felt that the coach was difficult to work with. However, the relationship between Reinsdorf and Thibodeau was now beyond repair. The two men had been reasonably close and Reinsdorf had taken the coach under his wing. Loyalty is the one quality that the owner demands and when he feels it is gone he is done with the relationship. The statement from Reinsdorf that the Bulls released on May 28 spoke volumes about their position on the strained relationship. This part of the press release was especially telling: “While the head of each department of the organization must be free to make final decisions regarding his department, there must be free and open interdepartmental discussion and consideration of everyone's ideas and opinions. These internal discussions must not be considered an invasion of turf, and must remain private.”

The Thibodeau situation was much like Horace Grant who found himself on the outside after meeting with the owner to negotiate a new contract in the early 90’s. After being cautioned by Reinsdorf to make sure Grant wanted to do a new deal without his agent’s approval and agreeing to terms, Grant went back on his word. That ended things with the Bulls and eventually he found his way to Orlando.

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Thibodeau’s perceived disloyalty broke Reinsdorf’s cardinal rule. That combined with the difficult working environment that many inside the organization complained about and the Bulls failure to advance past a beatable Cleveland Cavaliers team made the decision to change coaches a very easy one for Paxson and Forman. The statement that was highly critical of Thibodeau was the owner finally saying he had had enough.

Thibodeau is an outstanding coach and he will work again in the NBA. He compiled a resume of success that no one can argue with. He is one of the winningest coaches in NBA regular season history, he is a tremendous student of the game and he has a tireless work ethic. However, his ability to coach his team was never a point of contention with his bosses. It was the lack of a harmonious relationship with his superiors and the one mistake that Reinsdorf could not overlook, a perceived lack of loyalty to his ultimate boss and to the organization that did him in. Say what you want about the Bulls not taking the high road when they announced his firing but after taking repeated punches from the coach’s supporters the owner finally punched back and his was a knockout blow.

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

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USA TODAY

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

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USA TODAY

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.