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.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls fail to close another close game in loss to Raptors

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls fail to close another close game in loss to Raptors

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 93-92 loss to Toronto.

0:45 - Reaction to losing another close game

2:00 - Kendall Gill stops by to give Matt Peck a hard time about Derrick Rose

3:30 - On Wendell Carter Jr and wanting more

4:45 - Viewer comment on Bulls shooting 46 three-point attempts

7:20 - Concern over Lauri Markkanen

8:10 - Viewer comment still believing in Lauri

9:40 - Viewer comment on Wendell Carter and Daniel Gafford

12:10 - Viewer comment on running more pick n roll w Zach and Lauri

15:35 - Viewer question on Otto Porter and Hutchison

16:30 - Viewer trade idea: Kevin Love for Markkanen

17:15 - Any comfort in coming close to beating two of the top teams in the East?

20:30 - Viewer comment on losing games

23:00 - Viewer comment on Coby should start

24:05 - Viewer comment pandering to John Sabine

24:40 - Sabine shares his weird dream that involves Jim Boylen

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

In Bulls' loss to Toronto Raptors, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford rejuvenated the United Center

In Bulls' loss to Toronto Raptors, Denzel Valentine and Daniel Gafford rejuvenated the United Center

Monday night, 14,775 fans attended the Bulls' latest in a line of hard-fought defeats: a 93-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors. That's the smallest reported crowd at the United Center for a Bulls game since Dec. 16, 2004.

For stretches, though, it felt like a full house. 

"The UC was great tonight, the fans were awesome," Denzel Valentine said.

The starters carried the team, to start: Of the Bulls' 50 first-half points, 46 were scored by Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. But it wasn't the usual suspects that pushed the Chicago faithful's decibel count to levels unheard of in the earlygoing of this season.

Thank Valentine and Daniel Gafford, in large part, for that. With the Bulls trailing 61-58 at the 4:45 mark of the third, Jim Boylen turned to a bench-dominated unit of Coby White, Valentine, Thad Young, Gafford and LaVine to spark his group. It was a potential tipping point in the game: The Raptors were in the midst of an 11-3 run and the Bulls' offense was fizzling. White, Valentine, Young and Gafford had four points between them upon entry.

With that move, the fates tilted towards the home side. For a time.

"It was great minutes from them," Satoransky said of Valentine and Gafford after the game. "I think [Denzel] is feeling more himself right now. And DG will always bring that energy. He's one of the most athletic guys I've ever seen, his energy... will always refresh our game."

It certainly did in this one. Gafford blocked three shots and notched 10 points over the game's final quarter-and-a-half. Valentine scored all 13 of his points for the night after that juncture in the third, shooting 5-for-9 from the floor and 3-for-7 from 3-point range. The Bulls finished the night 12-for-46 from 3-point land.

"Just energy," Valentine said, of what that bench unit brought. "We started playing defense. It started on the defensive end, started in transition, getting rebounds. Played with a little bit more life. Playing with each other too. We were moving the ball together."

"We go in, we produce with the minutes that we get," Gafford said. And on what the fans gave back: "There was definitely energy. I was blocking shots, Denzel was knocking down shots, we were getting stops on defense. We were doing everything we needed to do to win the game, and the crowd helped us do that."

Of course, they didn't do it alone. In spite of not scoring, White played a solid defensive game and finished the night with eight rebounds and five assists. Young and Kris Dunn each hit crucial 3-pointers in the third. But watching Valentine and Gafford ignite the home crowd made it even more surreal that neither of them cracked the regular rotation until mid-to-late November.

"We got a bond," Gafford said. "He finds me when I'm open, and I find him when he's open... We just go out and play basketball."

That strategy helped the Bulls build an 85-77 lead with eight minutes left in the game, but the team's good fortunes faded fast from there. After an alley-oop from Valentine to Gafford gave them their 84th and 85th points of the night, the Bulls didn't score for the next five-and-a-half minutes of game action. The Raptors surged down the stretch. The Bulls scrapped, but ultimately faltered when it mattered most.

Both Gafford and Valentine found themselves in the Bulls' closing lineup — Valentine by way of the hot-hand, Gafford in Carter's stead after he fouled out with just under four minutes remaining. A Valentine transition layup, Markkanen 3-pointer and Gafford layup represented the Bulls' only points of the final eight minutes.

"We gotta learn how to put it away. If we can't at the end of the third quarter, we gotta put it away at the beginning of the fourth," Gafford said. "We just gotta learn how to put it away, seal the deal." 

But, as a team, they didn't. And thus, the bottom line doesn't change. The Bulls won a(nother) moral victory or two tonight, but when the final points were tallied, they were on the short end. That's the only stat that matters, especially to those 14,775 that stood behind their team, in person, tonight.

"It’s disappointing when we don’t win games. It’s disappointing when we don’t win home games," Boylen, who has presided over only 10 home victories in his tenure, said. "Nobody is running from that."

"No excuses, nobody cares, we just gotta come out and play hard and learn from our mistakes," Valentine said. "It's tough, because we lose the last three and we were up in the fourth [quarter], I think, in all of those games. So it's tough. But hopefully at some point we'll figure it out."

Gafford and Valentine provided a jolt, but because of the result, they're only would-be heroes — their combined performance amounts to nothing more than an all-too-familiar silver lining. In some ways, that stings even more.

"That's what why this game is so frustrating," Satoransky said. "Because I know we were there. Fans were engaged and I think we played very well, and we missed a lot of shots. You know, that always hurts."

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