PORTLANDPrior to his teams loss to the Trail Blazers, Bulls head coach was practically gushing over Portland rookie point guard Damian Lillard, a strong early-season Rookie of the Year candidate.
Very impressive. His skill set makes him very hard to guard. His ability to shoot the ball sets everything up. Very clever in the pick-and-roll. Plays with a lot of poise for a rookie, Thibodeau evaluated. Hes taking seven threes a game and if he gets a clean look at it, its always a very good shot, so that sets up the drive, and when you add in Aldridge and Batum and Matthews, its a very explosive team.
The young floor general, the sixth overall pick in Junes NBA Draft out of tiny Weber State, has indeed opened up his eyes with his play this season, showing the ability to step up in the clutch, run a team at a high level, knock down shots and get into the lane and finish. Lillard finished with 16 points Sunday evening, but it was his final two that raised a mild controversy.
With the game already in hand following the Bulls last-gasp comeback, the point guard took the ball in for a two-handed dunk with 0.9 seconds on the clock. Afterwards, he was confronted by Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, who werent too pleased with his display of showmanship, which many perceive to unsportsmanlike in NBA circles.
It is what is, Thibodeau said about the play.
Asked if he spoke to Lillard, Noah responded, Yeah, but its a non-issue. Its okay.
Gibson, however, was more forthcoming about the incident.
Lillard didnt say anything. He was making a scene out of nothing. He made a dunk, and me and Joakim just addressed it like, In the future, youve just got to be smarter. A lot of teams are not going to let you do that, and Trail Blazers forward Jared Jeffries just came up and told me the same thing, that I was right, he explained. But it wasnt anything more than that. I was just like, You cant do that. Youve got to be smart.
Bulls backup point guard Nate Robinson, who shares an agency with Lillard, was also on the court and talked to Lillard, who hes previously reached out to as a veteran dispensing advice.
I just told him, Thats not the right play, dog. Just dribble the ball out. You all have got the victory already, stuff like that. Everybody around the league watches that. That pisses people off. Youre losing already, then youre going to finish it off with the dunk at the end. Thats how, you could say, flagrant fouls and things like that happen. You dont want anything like that to happen to anybody in the league, where guys kind of hold grudges about things like that.
But its a part of basketball. It happens. Its not a big deal, but its just something that you dont, Robinson recounted. I just told him, Thats not the right play, dog. You had a good game, just dribble it out and then, we go on our way. Take our L like a man.