As the NBA season winds down, it becomes increasingly more difficult to find time for teams to practice. Whether it’s a handful of home games clumped together, a long road trip or wanting to rest fatigued and/or injured players, practice can take a back seat to rest.
But for Tom Thibodeau, practice sessions are as important in August as they are in March.
“Practice is very important. I think there’s a tendency or trend where people are de-emphasizing it, but to me it’s critical,” he said during Saturday afternoon’s shootaround at the Berto Center.
Two factors have allowed the Bulls to take advantage of those practices. Both the team’s health and extended home stand have meant more repetitions in practice, both for veterans and youngsters. The Bulls are in the midst of a six-game home stand and have been in Chicago since March 5, while Thibodeau gave his team a clean bill of health.
“We’re fortunate because of the home stand where we’ve had an opportunity to practice more, so that’s been a big plus for us,” he said. “(Practice) allows you to work on things, spend a little more time on things which we needed. That’s all been a big plus for us.”
But in true Thibodeau fashion, the Bulls head coach said practice only works if your players are. In that sense, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Jimmy Butler and the rest of the veterans taking heed of Thibodeau’s words has made that practice beneficial to the Bulls late in the regular season.
“I feel like every time we come into this gym you’ve got to have that winning, championship mentality,” Butler said. “If it’s a walk-through, a film session, you’ve always got to be locked in, and Thibs does a good job of getting us ready for games and definitely those shootarounds.”
Practice has also been an area where Butler and the rest of the veterans have helped the younger players learn the correct habits. Much like Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver did for Butler, the former Marquette wing is setting a good example for younger players such as Tony Snell by paying attention to detail on a daily basis.
“If you want to have a long career in this league, you’re not going to be that scorer that you were at all times, but you can always be a great leader or pay attention to the little things to help win games, knowing all the plays of the opposing teams, stuff like that,” he said. “And that’s what this is, and it’s just teaching them the basics and whenever they have young guys on the team.”