Following Saturday nights defeat at the hands of the lowly Nets, Tom Thibodeau was understandably frustrated at his teams performance. That disappointment carried over to Sunday afternoons practice at the Berto Center, after which he broke down the lackluster outing from the previous day.
The Bulls performed poorly in every aspect, from getting ready to intensity to defense to offensive energy. There wasnt anything that we did well and we dug ourselves a hole. Down 22-3 after the first five minutes of the game, 34-19 after the first quarter. The first five minutes of the game were poor, the last five of the second quarter were poor, the first five of the third quarter were poor. We were in such a big hole the whole game, we didnt give ourselves a chance, so we have to change that, the coach explained. Its both your offense and your defense because theyre tied to each other. If you dont have offensive energy and floor balance when youre shooting the ball, our spacing is breaking down, were quick-shooting the ball and we dont have floor balance, so it doesnt allow us to have our defense set and were giving up easy baskets. Were not making the effort thats necessary with our smalls being back on the raise of the shot and our bigs sprinting back to get our smalls back out. In this league, if you take shortcuts, youre going to pay for them and we have.
There wasnt one aspect of our defense that was done well. I thought there was one stretch in the third quarter, towards the end, where we picked it up a little bit, but you have to play for 48 minutes and in this league, if you give a team the type of confidence in the first five minutes that we did, youre making it real hard on yourself, which we did, so we have to change that. Weve got to be ready at the start of the game.
That said, Thibodeau said he wouldnt make any drastic lineup changes or anything of that nature, though hes concerned that in three of the Bulls last four contests dating back to last Sundays loss in Boston at the conclusion of the teams nine-game road trip and with the exclusion of Thursdays home win over the Celtics theres been defensive slippage, something thats been a rarity during his tenure in Chicago.
We wont change the lineup. Before you make changes, I always say theres two questions that you always ask yourself. One, are you doing it hard enough and are you executing it properly, he said. If you can answer that youre doing it hard enough and youre executing it properly, then you change the scheme or the play or whatever it is that youre looking at, but if youre not doing those two things, then its hard to judge whether you should change or not because those are the first two things that you have to get right.
If Thibodeau did decide to make a move, an obvious choice would be giving more minutes to 36-year-old veteran Mike James. Currently on a 10-day contract and in his second stint of the season with the Bulls, the backup point guard has provided an infusion of toughness, energy and defensive intensity when on the floor, something Thibodeau expects, as the pair is familiar with each other from their time together with the Houston Rockets.
Im comfortable with him because I know what his strengths are I think he understands what were trying to get done. He needs more reps, he needs a lot of reps, the coach acknowledged. The one thing about Mike is hes going to play hard every time hes out there. You can play him at both guard spots. Hes got experience, too. I like what hes brought to our team.
Another potential adjustment could be the implementation of more zone defense in certain stretches, something Thibodeau has been using more of as of late.
I do like the zone in certain situations, but I think in order to play a good zone, you have to play good man-to-man, so Saturday we did use it some and I didnt think it was very effective, he explained. It depends on who the Bulls opponent have on the floor. Depends on clock, situations like that. It depends on matchups, if you may be small or you may be trying to protect somebody, but I think the hard thing in the NBA is to have a steady diet of long zone because of the amount of shooting thats on the floor.
Right now, most teams have four shooters on the floor and then, youre going to be vulnerable to the second shot. But I do like the concept of the zone. A lot of the principles of our man-to-man also have zone principles, too.