Thibodeau embraces 'normal' adversity of NBA season

Thibodeau embraces 'normal' adversity of NBA season
October 16, 2013, 12:45 pm
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Whether it's half of his team suffering from injuries or just one player's status being up in the air - say, Derrick Rose - Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau believes that adversity is the new normal when it comes to the rigors of an NBA season.

"The NBA is constant change and it's how quickly you can adapt to the change, so that's the nature of the league. Sometimes it's injuries or there's change in the roster. Whatever it might be, you have to be ready to adapt and adapt quickly," he explained. "That's why it's a team sport. So if one guy goes out, you expect the next guy to step in and get the job done, and I think that's the mindset that you have to have. I think to be successful in this league, you have to have a lot of mental toughness and it's a physical league, and you're going to get hit and there's going to be soreness, and you have to get through all that stuff. I think the way you train and the way you prepare are important."

Thibodeau is often perceived as a taskmaster, but in his opinion, the traits of a champion - what the Bulls are trying to be this season - include being able to persevere through various struggles, making his approach more reasonable than what some observers think.

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"When you look at the championship teams, they have a lot of mental toughness. I've studied the Jordan teams, when he was here. No one had more mental toughness than Michael and that's what it takes to win. Sometimes, I think to those viewing from the outside, it's incomprehensible as to how much goes into it," he said, invoking the Bulls' dynasty era. "When you look, you say, 'Geez, that's a lot.' Well, it takes a lot to win it and you have to have the willingness to make that type of commitment if you want to do something like that."

Having coached against those Jordan-led Bulls teams, which won six NBA titles, and now being in Chicago, Thibodeau has a greater appreciation for the journey it took for them to be so successful.

"Just watching film, talking to people that were involved and then, I had a perspective from sitting on the opposing bench. It's good just to study it, too," he explained. "When you analyze the things they went through, the hurdle of getting past Detroit, what went into that. You see that the thing that probably stands out the most is not only Jordan's talent, but his drive, his mental toughness, his leadership, and that's what it takes. It's a special commitment to get that done.

"The good thing is you bump into a lot of those guys," the coach added. "Again, I don't think you can ever underestimate how much Michael did."

Of course, Thibodeau has also been part of a title-winning squad, back in 2008, when he was an assistant coach for the Boston Celtics. Additionally, during his long tenure as an assistant on various NBA teams, he's been linked to some of the greatest individual talents in recent history, not to mention a plethora of underappreciated role players.

"I thought Pat [Patrick Ewing] had a lot of mental toughness, [Kevin] Garnett, [Paul] Pierce, Ray Allen, Yao [Ming], so I've been fortunate. David Robinson. And then, there are a lot of role guys that I think are critical," he said. "When you look at a James Posey, P.J. Brown, a Shane Battier, those guys, you can never measure them statistically, but you can measure them by winning. Some guys, when you look at their careers, wherever they go, they win. I think there's a lot that goes into winning that can't be measured unless you have an appreciation. If you look at Shane Battier's statistics, they're never going to stand out, but all he does is win. I think that's part of the value of those Duke guys. They all understand how to win and how to be a part of a team."

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This is why Thibodeau, as much as he comprehends the value of a superstar like Derrick Rose and even the Bulls' other high-profile players, such as All-Star center Joakim Noah, routinely offers up praise for the team's unsung heroes. It also explains why he expects those same players - for instance, Kirk Hinrich and Nazr Mohammed - to be able to step in and perform at a high level if and when those aforementioned stars are out of the lineup over the course of a season.

There's a method to Thibodeau's madness and if the end result of this season is a Bulls championship, like the teams of yesteryear he's pored over in his downtime, the hypothesis of the basketball mad scientist will prove to be correct.