Wary Bulls have Hamilton, Deng vs. Wizards

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Wary Bulls have Hamilton, Deng vs. Wizards

DEERFIELDWhen Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau started his breakdown of the Wizards, his teams next opponent, after Fridays practice by saying theyre good, at the time, it could be chalked up to the coachs habit of showing almost reverential deference to every squad in the league. But after Washington won its fourth game of the season later that evening, beating a Magic team that has impressed observers thus far in the campaignalbeit not the most talented club and playing without arguably their best player, injured power forward Glen Big Baby Davisto snap an eight-game losing streak, one can assume that the Bulls will do everything in their power not to let Thibodeaus cautionary advice become prophecy.

If you look at their record, you would say, Oh, OK, theyre not having a great season, and once you look deeper and you see that, OK, theyve had a lot of injuries, Thibodeau rhapsodized after the Bulls shootaround Saturday morning at the Berto Center. John Walls been out virtually the whole season, Nene was out for a good chunk of that. So, you take a quality big like Nene and a good point guard off your team, youre going to feel it, and theyve had an opportunity to have some time together, guys are coming back, their bigs are tough to match up with.

Jordan Crawford is a load, Bradley Beal is a bright young player, Martell Webster has been a good player in the league for a long timeand hes had some health issues to deal with in his careerbut those all are quality players and then you add in a couple of guys like D-League call-up point guards Garrett Temple and Shelvin Mack, two quality players that are under the radar, that are very hungry, so theyre a dangerous team, he continued with his breakdown. To me, theyre a quality team and the reason their record is like it is, is more because of the injuries that theyve had, but they played very, very well last night. Theyve played well in a lot of games that they lost, so we know how good they are. We have to be ready.

To face those aforementioned juggernauts Saturday night at the United Center, Thibodeau will have the services of Rip Hamilton, the Bulls starting shooting guard, who broke into the league with the Wizards, after the veteran missed nearly a month of action after tearing his left plantar fascia in a Dec. 1 win over Philadelphia. The coach wouldnt divulge it to the assembled media but Hamilton will playand start, moving understudy Marco Belinelli back to the bench, though the reserve will likely play the bulk of the minutes at the position, with Hamilton in a limited-minutes rolea source told CSNChicago.com.

Well see before the game. He went through shootaround, Thibodeau said. Everything is good so far. If there arent any problems, hell go.

Like Hamilton, bookend starting wing Luol Deng is a game-time decision after spraining his right ankle in the teams Christmas Day loss to Houston. Deng was also a full participant in the morning session and while Thibodeau wouldnt confirm whether or not the small forward and league minutes-per-game leader would suit up, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, Deng will also play Saturday.

Thibodeau is more focused on the Bulls righting the ship after two consecutive double-digit defeats than informing the media of his plans and with the opportunity to log some practice time, the coach indicated that the specific aspects that troubled him the most in blowout losses to the Hawks and Rockets were addressed.

Weve had the opportunity to have some quality practice time, so well see when we get out there, he explained. Usually, you have slippage in a lot of areas and often times, when you look at your schedule, you see that you havent had a lot of practice time and youre trying to make your corrections in film sessions, walk-throughs and sometimes, you need to be on the floor to get it done.

We had the opportunity to watch and see some of the things were not doing well, and you have to correct those first. I think the big thing is to eliminate all the ways in which you beat yourselves first. We know if we defend and we rebound, and we take care of the ball, you do those three things, youre going to be in position to win, so we have to get back to taking care of those three things.

Aside from his own team, Thibodeau also touched on the coaching fate of Avery Johnson, who he coached in San Antonio. Johnson was fired from his position as the Brooklyn Nets head coachassistant P.J. Carlesimo is the teams interim head coach, but among the names who are being speculated to potentially be permanent replacements are Phil Jackson and current TV broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy, Thibodeaus former bossThursday after being named the Eastern Conferences Coach of the Month in November.

Johnson is a hell of a guy and I think hes a great coach. Its a the unfortunate part of this profession. It seems like its awfully quick. They got off to a great start and they had some injuries, so I wish him well, Thibodeau said. I know him personally. I know the type of coach that he is. Hes a terrific coach, so I feel badly for him.

Timberwolves' Tom Thibodeau appreciative of time with Bulls

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Timberwolves' Tom Thibodeau appreciative of time with Bulls

There's likely a lot Tom Thibodeau would love to get off his chest.

But the newest head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves continued to take the high road on his tumultous ending with the Bulls when he spoke to David Kaplan Monday morning on ESPN 1000.

Thibodeau, who was hired by the Timberwolves in April as head coach and president of basketball operations, said he was appreciative of his five seasons with the Bulls.

"I felt I had a great job here and I had great guys to coach," he told Kaplan. "That part, you're disappointed that it's going to end, but you know if you're in pro sports. These things happen. I was disappointed that we weren't able to win the championship, not only for our players, but for the fans here and for Jerry (Reinsdorf). Jerry took a chance on me and I'll always appreciate that he did that. I enjoyed my time here.

"Obviously I loved living here and appreciate all the support we received for our team over the five years I was here," he added. "I know what the Bulls mean to this city and I know how the organization feels about the support that they receive from the fans. This is a great, great sports city and I certainly appreciate all they did for me as well."

Thibodeau's departure coincided with Fred Hoiberg's arrival at the helm. The Bulls struggled in their first year post-Thibodeau, missing the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

Thibodeau alluded to myriad injuries the team faced, including the season-ending shoulder injury to emotional leader Joakim Noah.

"Jo (Noah) is a big hit. You can't underestimate that, but along with Jo going down I felt that the East had gotten a lot better," Thibodeau said. "When you combine those things, and sometimes that happens. They're still a really good team. I think Fred is an excellent coach. They have to be healthy. That's a big thing for the organization, and unfortunately that hasn't been the case for the last few years."

The Bulls and Timberwolves will play twice next season.

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.