Rose shares Thibodeau's old-school mentalities

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Rose shares Thibodeau's old-school mentalities

Coming out of the mouth of a basketball purist, it was surprising.

I love it, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, when asked about the zone defense the Toronto Raptors played against his team a tactic other teams have employed, presumably to force players other than Derrick Rose to be scorers for a portion of Saturday nights win.

Thibodeau then elaborated about why he adores a strategy long believed to be the bane of most NBA coaches, though the Dallas Mavericks last years champions and the team for which new Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was an assistant success in utilizing it may well put it in vogue in a copycat league.

I love it because I think we have all the things to attack a zone. We can change. We can put more shooting on the floor, we have guys who can penetrate and we have great offensive rebounding, so whenever we see it, we like it and then we have some great cutters. We have Lu Luol Deng, who can cut from behind the zone. We have some guys that are very good attacking the zone from behind, so thats all part of it, he explained.

Thats all well and good, but defensively, would the guru of that end of the court ever consider it?

Well, we have zone principles. We really do. Were not a passing-lane steal team, were a hard ball-pressure type team, but then we protect the paint behind the ball and basically, thats a zone principle and we may play zone. I like it. I like the concept of it, said Thibodeau.

Going back to Saturdays victory, Thibodeaus postgame analysis showed that one of the aspect of his teams performance that he was dissatisfied with was the Bulls failure to play up-tempo basketball on a consistent basis.

I dont think we played with the type of pace we would have liked to tonight, from start to finish. The pace was OK in the first quarter and then we slowed down. Weve got to do a better job of continuing with the fast pace, particularly if were defending well and rebounding well, weve got to get out and weve got to throw ahead and weve got to run through, and weve got to run to the rim. Everyone says they want to be a running team, but to have the discipline on every possession, it takes a lot of work, he observed, even in the face of a shortened schedule with little time to rest. Well, its the challenge you face and if you want to be a quality team, a championship-caliber team, thats what you have to do.

So, to recap: Thibodeau continues to surprise people. Not only is he not adverse to zone defense though it remains to be seen if hed actually institute it but the perceived control freak wants his players to run more, something hes said since last season, but apparently isnt just paying lip service to.

The second-year head coach is considered to be so disciplined that the Bulls often ugly style of play is seen as a result of his lack of creativity on offense. However, hes actually an astute play-caller on the fly (not to mention possessing a textbook-thick offensive playbook) and encourages the Bulls to run as long as they tend to their defensive responsibilities.

Youre going to hear it every single day, every single practice, revealed Derrick Rose. He might text it to you, but youre going to hear it, no matter what.

Rose was joking, but the point guard has been drinking so much of the Thibodeau Kool-Aid that his postgame comments admittedly sometimes sound like his coachs.

Were still slacking. We can always get better. We can always get better. I know I sound like Thibs, but we can always get better, he said after Saturdays win, when asked how the Bulls can improve defensively. The Bulls can contest shots harder. Contesting harder and staying consistent towards the end of the games. I think we tend to let teams get open shots towards the end of the games, knowing that weve got the lead by so much and thats something that we cant do.

Rose has no illusions, however, that regardless of how stifling their defense can be, the Bulls dont play the most aesthetically-pleasing style of basketball.

We feel the same way you all feel. It was ugly, but were winning, Rose acknowledged. We dont have anything to complain about. Were just trying to get as many wins as possible.

Given Thibodeaus influence and his roots as a New York Knicks assistant coach, it shouldnt be a shocker to students of the game that the Bulls have an old-school sensibility to them, even with the departure of Kurt Thomas, who played for those late-90s Knicks squads.

Were definitely old school. Thats our whole mentality. Weve still got that old-school mentality, where we play hard. We dont care about our stats or anything. As long as we win, were good, said Rose. "Were physical, we play with a lot of emotion, a lot of confidence and thats what we need on this team. Thibodeau is always talking about his teams, how certain players, when they came to the locker room, how they concentrated on certain things to get their team involved and get their team ready, prepared for the game. He talks about Knicks center Patrick Ewing and all the other great players that he had, and it kind of rubs off on you.

But Rose, ever conscious of skipping steps, as Thibodeau would say, qualified his statement.

Were not near those teams. Those teams made great runs. Were just up-and-coming.

Meanwhile, Rose is ready for his return to Memphis - where he played his lone season of college basketball and remains a fan favorite - Monday for the Bulls afternoon-matinee game against the Grizzlies on the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

It means a lot. Returning back to my old town, Memphis. Its a great city. I know that its going to be something special, said Rose, who visited the civil-rights museum in Memphis commemorating Dr. Kings assassination in the city, at the former Lorraine Motel. Its very nice. We went when we were college students. I think Coach Cal took us. Its super historic. It kind of makes you think about certain things when you go there. It was great, just seeing what went down, of course that tragedy, but just being there was something special.

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.”