Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has dealt with a litany of injuries all season, but now, as the regular season winds downhis team has two games left in the campaignhe can finally begin to turn his attention to the playoffs. Except that, knowing Thibodeau, he wont allow his team to focus on anything but Wednesdays upcoming contest at Central Division rival Indiana.
You want to finish what you started, so we feel like theres still work to be done. This is what we all signed up for. Shortened training camp, condensed schedule. Weve said all along that its not only a lack of practice time, but its also a lack of rest. Those are two major components and you always begin the season with end in mind, so when you wind down, you want to be playing well and you want to be healthy, explained Thibodeau, who noted that his team has had exactly 101 practices I count meetings, walk-throughs, ballroom sessions, he saidthis season, approximately half of what they had last season, including the playoffs.
Heres the thing: I think, overall, this team has done a good job of meeting every challenge. Weve been short-handed. The guys who have stepped in have done good all season long. We feel very good about the bench and the job they have done, but its still a collective effort and theres along way to go. Overall, Im pleased, but theres also things we can do a lot better and were going to concentrate on those things.
The big question mark becomes when youre not sure whos going to be in each and every night. Youd like to develop some consistency going in. I think thats the important thing. We have to be consistent with our approach and how we perform, he continued.
Its how you respond to the challenge, so we want to keep moving forward. Were being tested and theres the adjustment of when guys go out and theres also the re-adjustment when guys come back, but you cant use that as an excuse. You have to be ready for whatever is in front of you and thats the way I want our guys to respond.
Speaking of respond, a word Thibodeau used after Thursdays disappointing loss at Miami, his opinion differed from the consensus that his team revealed a major weakness when faced with a physical challenge from the Heat.
When you look at the strength of the club, weve been a defensive team, weve been a rebounding team for a long time. Weve been a dominant rebounding team and you cant be a dominant rebounding team being soft. I know that, so I wouldnt say were soft, he said. Now, were we disappointed with end result in Miami? Yeah, and are we capable of playing a lot better? Yeah, and we were disappointed in our fourth quarter, but we also did a lot of good things in that game. That game was very winnable in the fourth quarter, so were going to make the necessary corrections and move forward.
With the playoffs a week away, although the Bulls head coach is focused on the task at hand, but in examining the potential competition in the East, he sees a tough road ahead for his team, who are one win away from clinching the top seed in the conference.
Just knowing that its a lockout season, you can have teams that maybe end up being a lower seed that really arent that seed. Boston is a team thats playing very well and they have championship experience. I think New York is a team thats really playing well. Indianas playing well. Youve got a lot of teams and theres great parity in the league. Theres not a big difference between the top playoff seed and the eighth seed, the second seed and the seventh seed, the third seed and the sixth seed, the fourth seed and the fifth seed, said Thibodeau, who was on the staff of the eighth-seeded Knicks during the last lockout-shortened season when they advanced to the 1999 NBA Finals.
A big part of success in the playoffs comes down to are you playing well and are you healthy, so you have to concentrate on those things. I think you know what wins in the playoffs. I think you have to be well-balanced and you have to be playing well.