Do Bulls have Knicks' number?

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Do Bulls have Knicks' number?

NEW YORK -- Sometimes in the world of sports, one team just has anothers number and while it remains to be seen if thats the case, the Knicks cant chalk up their 110-106 loss to simply having an off night or missing the star power of Carmelo Anthony, as they could have attributed their previous loss at the United Center earlier this month. While Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau can nitpick all he wants about the furious, ultimately failed comeback by the home team that made a blowout defeat appear to be a close game, beating the top team in the East and frustrating them to the extent that their head coach, leading scorer and defensive anchor were all ejected in the eyes of folks who dont see the Derrick Rose-less squad on a regular basis, this is now a legitimate team.

Well, you get a 25-point lead on the road against a team like this, youre doing a lot of good things. Im disappointed with our poise and discipline in the fourth quarter, starting with me, fourth-quarter technical. So, we gave up 45 points and thats not good. Its not the way we want to close the game, the perfectionist coach evaluated. The problem is, youve got to do it for 48. When youre playing a team that shoots the three the way they shoot the three, if you let your guard down at all, they can make up ground very quickly on you and there were a lot of touch fouls, the free throws, the clock stopped, theyre scoring. We did a lot of things to put them back in position to have a shot, so thats something we have to clean up.

Theyre really good and they keep a lot of pressure on you at all times. So, they missed some shots early that they normally make. We made some. We got off to a good start offensively and that sort of set the tone. I thought our defense and our rebounding was very good in the first half. The third quarter, I thought we were really good and you have to play against them. A 10-point lead, 15-point lead, youre not safe against this team, he continued. That was the nature of the game, so theyre down people and theyre scrambling, but the thing that always gives them a chance is their ability to shoot the three. So, they have you spread out pretty good and if you make a mistake, now youre giving them the three and if youre hugging the line too much, then Feltons penetrating to the hole. Forty-five points is an awful lot of points in a quarter, so Im very concerned about that, but the important thing is I think youve got to find different ways to win. I was pleased with that. This is a hard building to play in. We came in and did what we had to, to get a win, which is what we want.

Thibodeau can say what he wants, but at least defensively with the exception of that bizarre final stanza, in which the Knicks valiantly fought back without Anthony and sixth-man extraordinaire J.R. Smith, who scored 55 of the teams 74 points when they were both disqualified for various reasons, not to mention Tyson Chandler, who was ejected after getting tangled up with Bulls counterpart Joakim Noah he seems to have his former employer figured out. By taking away the deep ball, the weapon that has taken the Knicks to the top of the East, theyve now beaten their historic rivals with and without Anthony in the lineup.

Things were definitely escalating, but I dont think theyre used to being down that much, too. If they were up 20 points, I dont think they would have been that frustrated. Well be playing this team a lot and theyre a very good team, they play very hard and Im just happy we won right now, Noah said. It doesnt say anything. It just says: Bulls, W. Knickerbockers, L.

We feel like we still have our best basketball ahead of us and thats exciting. We feel like we can still get a lot better and to come out, and get a win like this in the Garden, to me, you dont know what it means to me. Im playing in front of my family and my friends. I just felt really blessed to be able to play, he continued, before responding, Nah, not really, when asked if the rivalry between the two big-market teams is beginning to resemble the Bulls-Knicks battles of his adolescence.

Teammate Taj Gibson, another New Yorker, replied otherwise when posed with the same question: It is like the old Bulls-Knicks rivalry. Ever since I got here, I feel like that. Every time we play here, its down to the wire, its always close games and I was just pissed because I couldnt really get into the game and experience what I normally experience, but it was a great game. We defended well, this was a big win for us, especially coming into a tough environment. This crowd understands basketball from every single aspect of the game and this is the Mecca, this is basketball, this is where Im from, so Im just happy we could get the win.

The 29-point, 13-rebound effort of Luol Deng was almost overshadowed by the sideshow of all of the technical fouls, ejections, the Noah-Chandler fracas and even his own left-shoulder injury, but it cant be ignored. Matched up with Anthony, considered one of the elite players at their shared position, Deng came up with a huge performance on both ends.

It was tough. It felt like it was the longest game ever, and there were a lot of distractions. I'm just happy we kept the lead. I know we had a big lead and let it slip, but at the end of the day we won. And that's really what matters, he told CSNChicago.com on the Madison Square Garden floor immediately after the game. I was excited. Melo's such a tough matchup. I see a lot of great players, and I love it. Some days they get the best of me, and some days I do well. I'm happy we got a team that can compete with all these teams, and it gives us a chance to go out there and compete with the best.

Later, in the visitors locker room, he added: We knew we had to come in here and be ready. Theyre a tough team, theyre playing the best in the East right now. Theyve got Melo, whos been playing really well and theyre really confident at home, and we just really had to stay focused the whole game, even when the game got out of hand. When they came back, we did a good enough job to keep the lead.

At the end of the day, thats all that matters. Mentally, this game reinforced to the Bulls what theyre capable of and for the Knicks, whose fans even got caught up in the drama, as spectators were ejected from the arena, at the minimum, they know which team theyd like to avoid in the first round of the playoffs.

Tom Thibodeau all smiles after seizing all the power in Minnesota

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Tom Thibodeau all smiles after seizing all the power in Minnesota

With the controversy behind him and a future that’s envied by virtually every team not in the playoffs, former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau embraced his introduction as Minnesota Timberwolves coach as a new beginning.

Of course, the smile was a little wider considering the title he’s also walking into the door with, as President of basketball operations. He’ll be able to create and establish his own culture as basketball czar, with comrade Scott Layden as general manager.

Layden will do the daily, dirty work, but Thibodeau will have final say in basketball matters—a responsibility he craved in this year away from the sidelines, and also evidenced by his partnership with the popular firm Korn Ferry, the firm that helped place Stan Van Gundy in Detroit.

"For me, personally, this is about alignment," Thibodeau said at his introduction. "It's not about power. It's not about any of that stuff. I've known Scott a long time. We've shared philosophies with each other about certain things. He was the person that I really wanted. So I'm glad we had the opportunity to get him."

Like Van Gundy, Thibodeau had a rocky relationship with his previous employer before turning the tables in his next stop to become the all-knowing basketball being.

Scathing comments after his firing last spring from Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf stung Thibodeau, according to reports, but was offset by Thibodeau thanking Reinsdorf for taking the chance on hiring him, not the ugly, forgettable ending.

“I don’t want to keep going back to Chicago, that’s gone,” he said afterward. “When I look back in totality, there was a lot more good than bad. That’s the way I prefer to view it. The next time you go around, you want to do it better. You analyze different teams, see the synergy between front office and coach and you try to emulate that.”

It’s easy to take the high road when two of the league’s brightest and youngest talents—Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins—are in your stead, healthy and ready to bust out.

And it’s easy to take the high road when there’s no barrier between what you want to happen and what will happen inside the building—a tricky proposition, it should be said.

The natural conflict that often exists between a front office and coach—one takes a more immediate view of matters while the other must consider the long-term effects of the franchise as a whole—won’t exist at all with Thibodeau and Layden because the hierarchy is clear.

It’s Thibodeau at the top and everyone and everything must bend to his will, per se. Considering the way he felt about the way things transpired in Chicago, where he reportedly clashed with Gar Forman and John Paxson over myriad issues, no one can be too surprised he followed the model laid out by Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers and Van Gundy, among others.

And like Van Gundy, Thibodeau has the task of getting the team with the longest conference playoff-less streak back to the land of the living—a feat Van Gundy accomplished this season with the Pistons, his second. The Timberwolves haven’t made the postseason since 2004, when Kevin Garnett won MVP.

It was four years before Garnett and Thibodeau connected in Boston in the 2007-08 season, helping the Celtics end a 22-year titleless drought. It’s Garnett, and players like Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah who helped Thibodeau earn this reputation as a master motivator and defensive wizard.

He thanked those players among others, as well as late Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders, who drafted the likes of Towns and Wiggins with the long-term view of having them develop at their own pace with the likes of veterans like Garnett and Tayshaun Prince there to guide them.

Thibodeau the coach will be there to prod, poke and push the greatness they’re expected to possess, the same way he did with Rose, Noah and Butler to varying degrees.

Thibodeau the coach won’t have much patience for mistakes, but Thibodeau the executive must resist the “trade everybody” emotions many coaches have when players go through down periods.

Having perspective was never one of his strong points, as he squeezed every ounce of productivity from his teams, but perspective must be his greatest ally in his second act in the spotlight.

Taking a long-term approach in a season when it came to minutes and players’ bodies was something he reportedly bristled at—and even if the narrative was somewhat exaggerated, the rap remains on him, unlikely to shake until proven otherwise.

Now he must take a long-term view in everything, and has to deal with the politics that come with being a top executive in the NBA, a task much easier done in fantasy than application.

Perhaps he gained that perspective in 11 months off after being fired from the Bulls, and using the time to gain insight into other franchises operations while watching the Bulls crumble from the inside.

The Bulls got what they wanted with his ouster, and it was a case of “be careful what you wish for”.

Eleven months from now, one wonders if the same mantra will apply to the coach who wanted it all and got it all.

Marc Gasol thinks brother Pau should sign with Spurs

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Marc Gasol thinks brother Pau should sign with Spurs

Pau Gasol has long been expected to opt out of the final deal of his contract with the Bulls this offseason.

And while there was a time when the interest in Gasol returning to the Bulls on a new deal appeared mutual, the liklihood is now that Gasol plays his 16th NBA season in a different uniform.

His brother, Marc Gasol, seems to think so, too.

When Gasol signed with the Bulls in 2014, he was also considering the Spurs, who at the time were the defending champions. Gasol chose Chicago over San Antonio and Oklahoma City, where he was twice named an All-Star and averaged 17.6 points and 11.4 rebounds in 150 games.

But he didn't have the success he expected when he signed. The Bulls were knocked out in the second round last year and missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons this year.

Gasol would make sense with the Spurs, who both tout a long track record with international players and veterans. It would also give him one last shot at earning a third NBA title, something he wasn't able to accomplish in two seasons with the Bulls.

Jimmy Butler 'happy' for Tom Thibodeau, puts blame of season on 'my shoulders'

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Jimmy Butler 'happy' for Tom Thibodeau, puts blame of season on 'my shoulders'

The news about former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau agreeing to terms with the Minnesota Timberwolves to coach and take over its basketball operations had already made its way to Jimmy Butler, who became an all-star under Thibodeau’s watch.

Thibodeau was controversially fired from the Bulls last spring after five seasons, and it took him less than a year to get another job—along with a substantial raise and the power that comes with having final say over personnel.

“I have heard about Thibs, I knew it would come up sooner or later,” said Butler at the grand opening of Bonobos guideshop in downtown Chicago. “I’m happy. I’m happy for that guy. I’m not surprised, not at all. We’ll see what he does over there.”

Butler developed from a late first-round pick in 2012 to a player who received a maximum contract last offseason, and admitted it was tough and demanding to play for the former coach.

“A little bit of both. He knows what he’s doing,” Butler said. “Very smart, he knows the game, he’s a winner, he’ll do whatever it takes to win. I wish him the best of luck. But I’m a Chicago Bull, so we gotta go against those guys.”

Thibodeau will take over a franchise that has arguably the best collection of young talent in the NBA, headlined by Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, with pundits already penciling in the Timberwolves to be amongst the living this time next season, in the playoffs.

[MORE: Goodwill joins Pro Basketball Talk podcast to talk Bulls]

Thibodeau led the Bulls to the playoffs in each of his five seasons, but when they fired him and replaced him with Fred Hoiberg, an up-and-down season ensued, leading to the Bulls missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Butler, as he’s done through the season, said the Bulls’ underachieving starts with him.

“I think it starts with myself,” he said. “If I can make this team win, and do whatever it takes every single night, I can take it.”

“I put it on my shoulders, I’m the reason we didn’t make the playoffs. And I’m fine with that. I’m not happy with it but I’m fine with it. Because  it’s only gonna make me stronger, make me better. Moving forward, I have to be able to make us win enough games to be able to make the playoffs.”

Butler’s numbers improved, one year after being named Most Improved Player, and he repeated as an All-Star. But it wasn’t enough to keep the Bulls afloat, as they experienced an eight-game dropoff from last season.

“I feel that way because I wasn’t consistent enough,” Butler said. “I had good games, I had average games, I had decent games and I had some terrible games. I don’t wanna have terrible and decent games. Averages games can get us over the hump but really good ones can help us win.”

Of course, Butler was queried about the ongoing uneasy pairing between himself and Derrick Rose in the Bulls’ backcourt, repeating the two will work out together over the summer to build more on-court chemistry, but playfully dismissed rumors of discord.

“When we lose, it’s always a problem,” Butler said. “You gotta find something to talk about. It’s a great story (but) it has nothing to do with it. Yeah, we’ll work out together, figure out ways to co-exist. I think we did a great job of it this year, yeah we were injured but that wasn’t an excuse. We always have enough to win, and moving forward if we’re healthy, we’re nice.”