Bulls

Wolves know victory was special for Thibs: 'We wanted to do it for coach'

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USA TODAY

Wolves know victory was special for Thibs: 'We wanted to do it for coach'

A group of reporters surrounded Andrew Wiggins late Tuesday night, wanting to ask the 21-year-old wing how the young Timberwolves were able to secure an improbable 99-94 road victory over the Bulls. Minnesota had trailed by 21 points midway through the second quarter against an experienced Bulls team that had won two straight at home.

Wiggins answered tactfully, responding that the Timberwolves had stuck together and fought through the early deficit. The swift defense they had played in the second half came down to will and determination, he answered.

Wiggins was then asked if Tuesday’s victory meant something more, given that head coach Tom Thibodeau was back at the United Center for the first time since being fired by the Bulls in 2014.

At the same time Zach LaVine was getting dressed at his neighboring locker.

“Hell yeah,” LaVine mumbled, though loud enough for reporters to hear.

Wiggins laughed before echoing the same sentiments, that Tuesday’s win was much more than a single tally in the win column.

“Definitely,” Wiggins said. “That’s just fuel to the fire. That made all us want it more. We wanted to do it for coach.”

It was a stark difference from the mood just outside the Timberwolves locker room, where Thibodeau had just finished speaking with reporters. During that morning’s shootaround, and even in his availaiby with reporters 90 minutes before tipoff, Thibodeau took the high road when asked about his time in Chicago, his relationship with the front office, and the manner in which he was fired.

Thibodeau’s trademark stone-faced manner remained as he exited the locker room to meet with reporters. Always in true character, Thibodeau deflected any notion that the victory meant any more to win than any other. In his mind, a 6-18 team – worst in the NBA entering the night – needed any sort of victory, no matter how it came or which team it came against.

“I think the winning part is important for us, just to build confidence,” Thibodeau said. “And so to understand what goes into winning, how hard it is to win. You can’t take any plays off, you have to play tough.”

Thibodeau said he hadn’t marked Dec. 13 on his calendar when the league schedule came out this summer. Always the perfectionist, he admitted instead that he was looking for back-to-backs, or situations where the Timberwolves would play four games in five nights.

The only formal response from the Bulls came during the starting lineups, when PA announcer Tommy Edwards read that “the Chicago Bulls welcome back Tom Thibodeau.” The announcement elicited considerable cheers from the United Center crowd of 21,146. The cheers were considerably louder than any returning player, which has included Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol.

Thibodeau gave a few waves to the crowd before going right back to the clipboard in his hand. Once the game began it was business as usual. Still, his players understood the magnitude of the game, even if their coach didn’t let on to it meaning more.

That the Timberwolves picked up the victory with Thibodeau-style suffocating defense - the Bulls shot just 34 percent after the first quarter - only made the victory that much sweeter for the team.

“It’s just another win on his belt, but it obviously means more coming back here,” LaVine said. “He coached here for five years. He’s a big known name around here. He had a great standing ovation. I’m happy they gave him a warm welcome back, and we wanted to win this game for him.”

Thibodeau expanded further on his love for the Chicago and the Bulls organization, answering each prying question with a politically correct, yet still heartfelt and genuine response.

“It’s great,” he said of the response from the crowd. “It’s a great organization. They have great history, tradition, and as I mentioned, I owe these people a lot. They gave me an opportunity. The city has been great, the organization has been great, and in the end it didn’t work out but for the most part, the way (Bulls owner) Jerry (Reinsdorf) treated me for 99 percent of it was unbelievable.

“It’s great to come back because when I think back of the experience I had here, it wasn’t just the games. It was the people. I was very fortunate to be with that group so I apprecaited it. It’s a great city, it’s a great sports town. I loved my time here and so anytime I do come back I look forward to it.”

John Beilein reassigned to a different role within Cleveland Cavaliers organization

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USA TODAY

John Beilein reassigned to a different role within Cleveland Cavaliers organization

Coaching in the NBA is hard, even if you are one of the best college basketball coaches in the nation. It is something that basketball fans—especially those in Chicago—are reminded of time and time again, and John Beilein is the latest in the line of NCAA-to-NBA head coaches to make a failed transition. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported on Wednesday that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Beilein were parting ways after he resigned as head coach of the team. Charania later added that for the time being, Cleveland will be reassigning Beilein to an alternate role within the franchise. 

Beilein's NBA coaching career lasted 54 games, 216 games less than current Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg, who lasted 270 games with the Bulls after leaving the Iowa State program in 2015. Beilen's struggles were similar to Hoiberg in the fact that they both struggled to transfer their college coaching styles to the NBA, where they would be dealing with grown men rather than young college students. During Hoiberg's tenure with the Bulls, Jimmy Butler infamously called him out, stating that the Bulls needed to be "coached a lot harder at times," and that incident looks a lot like the dispute between Cavs center Tristan Thompson and Beilein, which boiled over during a game this season. 

There was also an incident this season in which Beilein mistakenly referred to his Cavaliers players as "thugs" in a film session, reportedly leading to the team intentionally playing songs with the word "thug" in it, further exacerbating an already difficult situation.

The big takeaway here is that there is a lot more than the X's and O's that goes into NBA coaching, and with player movement at an all-time high, college coaches are finding NBA roles more challenging than ever.

Beilein was one of the hottest coaching names in the business in 2019, coming off yet another successful season at the helm of the Michigan Wolverines, who were coming off of an Elite 8 appearance after making the National Title game the year before. Now Beilein is back out of NBA coaching, and the Bulls' rivals in Cleveland are now even more firmly entrenched in the rebuilding phase than they were before with relatively young (40 years old) J.B. Bickerstaff taking over. 

Beilein has three years and $12 million left on his Cavaliers contract, and sources have told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski previously that the Cavaliers and Beilein have agreed on a deal to pay him a portion of his 2019-20 salary. It has not yet publicly been stated what Beilein's new title within the Cavaliers organization will be. 

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NBA Mock Draft 4.0: Top of the 2020 NBA Draft still a mystery

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USA TODAY

NBA Mock Draft 4.0: Top of the 2020 NBA Draft still a mystery

One thing we know for sure about the 2020 NBA Draft: no team executives will be losing sleep on the eve of the lottery hoping to land the first or second pick like a year ago when the top prizes where generational power forward Zion Williamson and point guard extraordinaire Ja Morant.

Matter of fact, teams might prefer not to land one of the top three picks so they can pay less guaranteed money to a player who may not have a huge impact,

As we get closer to the start of conference tournaments around the country, no player has really distinguished himself as the clear cut No. 1 choice. Georgia’s Anthony Edwards gets credit for being available to play all season, but his poor shooting percentages from the field and the 3-point line for a bad college team hardly scream top overall pick.

Injuries and eligibility questions have kept a few of the top prospects off the court, so NBA executives will put more emphasis than ever on the information they gather during the draft combine and individual workouts.

Here’s a snapshot at where things stand in late February with our fourth mock draft.