There’s no trophy handed out for an undefeated preseason and while you wouldn’t know it by his coaching, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is completely aware of that fact.
Heading into the NBA regular season, Thibodeau knows that his Bulls’ 8-0 exhibition record means nothing beginning Tuesday evening, when the team faces off with the defending-champion Heat in Miami for the season opener. In fact, the coach is far from satisfied with how his squad is performing.
“I’m always alarmed,” Thibodeau quipped.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. The preseason basically tells you where you are, so we did some things okay, some things not so well. But the moment of truth is coming, so we’ve got to put the work into it and we have to be ready,” he went on to explain. “You’ve got to understand what goes into winning and as they say, ‘the battle is won before it’s fought.’ It comes from your preparation, so if you’re not putting the proper preparation into it, it’s going to show. So we have to be mentally, physically, emotionally ready and you have to put a lot of time and thought into that, and effort.”
One has to take into consideration that these comments came after the Bulls’ preseason-finale victory over Denver at the United Center, in which the home team offered up a lackluster first-half effort before rallying in the second half. But Thibodeau’s concerns about his team have been a constant throughout the exhibition campaign, as he’s lamented players such as All-Star center Joakim Noah missing games and practices, as well as on-court issues like attention to detail on the defensive end and maintaining intensity for entire contests.
“There were some things I thought we did fairly well and some we can improve upon. The main thing is playing for 48 minutes both offensively and defensively. You have to execute. It’s five-man offense and five-man defense. We have to eliminate the indecision and build the right habits. You have to put everything you have into each and every day. If you do that, you’ll improve,” the coach said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of getting back [on defense] and protecting the paint. Challenging shots. But the big thing was doing it for 48 minutes. And then also the importance of knowing your opponent well and taking his strength away. That’s critical. That’s an area we can do better in.
“The preseason, you’re going to have an opportunity to look at a lot of different things. So you’re also getting a look at a lot of different combinations. So we had an opportunity to get a look at some small lineups, some big lineups, two point guards together, our rookies got a chance to experience NBA basketball. So those were all pluses,” he added. “But now you’ve got to prepare yourself for the grind of the season. Each and every day is important. You can’t skip a day, you can’t only work when you feel like it or you feel good. You’ve got to work on the days when you’re not feeling great, you’ve got to help push the team forward and everyone’s got to work together.”
Whether it’s analyzed from a big-picture view or his preferred day-to-day standpoint, Thibodeau makes a lot of sense, though his “alarmed” mindset sounds more like paranoia when examining his team’s preseason success. Still, with a coach who remains on guard like he does, heading into a regular season with high expectations, the Bulls certainly won’t be predisposed for any letdowns.
While he wants to win every single game, from the preseason to the playoffs, the fashion in which the Bulls play and their overall approach will always define the method to Thibodeau's madness.