LeBron or not, Thibodeau won't overlook Cavs


LeBron or not, Thibodeau won't overlook Cavs

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Posted: 12:05 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam

CLEVELAND -- Tom Thibodeau isn't one to dwell on the past. While he empathizes with Cleveland fans in the aftermath of losing homegrown superstar LeBron James to free agency, in the mind of meticulously-prepared rookie NBA head coach, he sees a competitive Cavaliers team. He might be alone in possessing that line of thinking.

That might be a little extreme, but since last Thursday's return of James to Cleveland -- and subsequent Heat rout, which may have set the necessary fire under the much-ballyhooed squad to perform up to their potential -- the Cavs have been awful by all accounts. The team's current five-game losing streak, includes blowout losses to similarly moribund Minnesota (by a whopping 34 points) and Tuesday night, Philadelphia.

Still, Thibodeau maintained Cleveland is at least a threat to be reckoned with.

"I'm concerned because I don't worry about guys who aren't here. I just worry about the guys who are here and when I look at their team, I see a lot of guys who are very explosive, that could have big nights. So, we have to be ready for the start of the game. We can't allow these guys to get going early. They've got guys who can shoot the ball extremely well, they're good off the dribble, they've got high-energy guys up front, so we've got to be ready," said Thibodeau prior to the Bulls' shootaround Wednesday morning at Quicken Loans Arena. "They have a new team, so they're adjusting. Some night they look great and when you look at the strengths of their team and you see the capabilities, they have some guys who can shoot the three extremely well.

"Mo Williams, you can't give him space. Anthony Parker, can't give him space. Daniel Gibson's shooting the ball extremely well. You can't allow those guys to shoot open threes and when you're coming in off the bench with guys like Antawn Jamison and Ramon Sessions, those are two other guys that are capable of having big nights," he continued. "When you look at J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao up front, those are high-energy guys. You've got to match their intensity. Joey Graham's doing a really good job at the small forward, so they have some weapons. They could put points up on the board against you."

Thibodeau's positivity in evaluating opponents is equal parts respect and paranoia, but one thing is for certain: James isn't on his mind.

"The guy is from Cleveland and he had a great run here and so I'm sure there's disappointment, but that's part of pro sports. The way it is today with free agency, players leave. They don't stay with one team. It's unusual when a player stays with one team throughout his entire career. Sure, you feel for them," he said. "We have to approach it the same way we approach every game. Have a great shootaround, be focused, be ready for the start of the game and understand that in this league, everybody's capable of having a big night. You've got to be ready."

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls try to snap skid against Spurs on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Spurs tomorrow on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com, the only place where you can get the hometown call from Neil and Stacey.

Coverage begins at 8 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.


1. Attempting to end perfection. The Spurs have been absolutely electric outside of San Antonio this season, winning each of their first 13 road games to begin the year. That's the second longest streak in NBA history, and the Bulls have actually lost two of three at home. The Bulls will be home underdogs as the Spurs look to make it 14 in a row. The good news is the Bulls have defeated the Spurs at home each of the last two seasons.

2. Battle of the two-way studs. There's a real argument to be made that Thursday's matchup will tout the two best two-way players in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having his best offensive season to date, averaging 24.5 points on 46 percent shooting, 1.9 triples, and averaging nearly 91 percent from the free-throw line. Expect Jimmy Butler and Leonard to be on each other's rear most of the night in what should be one of the most fun 1-on-1 matchups in the NBA.

3. Questions at the point. For the Spurs, Tony Parker is questionable to play with a knee injury. If he can't go, it would be Nico Laprovittola and Patty Mills running the point. For the Bulls, Rajon Rondo is coming off a pair of ugly performances in Bulls' losses to the Mavericks and Pistons (and his suspension against the Blazers). Someone needs to step up at the point, and it could decide Thursday night's winner.

4. Pau returns to the UC. Though it didn't result in much success, Pau Gasol enjoyed two highly successful seasons in Chicago. The stat-stuffer was named an All-Star in both seasons, averaging 17.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 150 games. He's now in San Antonio, filling Tim Duncan's role in the starting lineup. And though his numvers are down from a year ago, he's still capable of putting up numbers, especially against a Bulls' interior that has struggled of late.

5. Getting Doug McDermott back. Dougie McBuckets has been activated to the Bulls roster, and not a moment too soon. Since McDermott suffered a concussion on Nov. 12, the Bulls bench ranks 26th in 3-pointers per game (2.5) and 30th in 3-point field-goal percentage (23.5 percent). Getting McDermott back, even in a small role as he gets his legs under him, will be a major factor against a Spurs team whose offense continues to heat up in December.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Bulls: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Bulls fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Bulls Pulse

Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

Bulls: Rajon Rondo calls incident with assistant coach 'part of the game'

AUBURN HILLS, MICH—Rajon Rondo almost made it to the quarter mark of the season without incident, but his frustrations got the better of him in Dallas last weekend in a situation with Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen.

He returned from his one-game suspension in a light mood, but didn’t take things lightly when addressing questions from the media after the Bulls’ 102-91 loss to Detroit.

Rondo admitted that he feels so strongly about things that he doesn’t let them go as easily as he should, which could have been the case with Boylen. Rondo threw a towel after an exchange with Boylen during the Bulls’ blowout loss to the Mavericks.

“That’s a good way to put it. Me as a player, a point guard, I have to handle a situation better,” Rondo said. “But when I feel a certain way, I’m gonna speak on it. My whole thing is always for the betterment of the team.

“If it comes off wrong or a certain way I’ll try to work on that. But for the most part I’m not a selfish individual, I try to do what’s best for the team, try to watch film with my teammates. That’s just part of the game, who I am.”

[SHOP: Get your Bulls gear right here]

When asked if he actually threw a towel at Boylen, Rondo quipped, “You gotta look at the film,” and tried to downplay the situation as best he could, noting the timing of the event in question.

He apologized to the coaching staff and his teammates and believes there won’t be lasting effects, although the Bulls are in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

“Hopefully it’ll be the last three-game losing streak,” Rondo said. “It’s about how you handle adversity. We usually handle it well as far as bouncing back.”

Calling the incident “part of the game,” Rondo didn’t want to address specifics but given his history of instances such as these in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento, this one makes it a little harder to shake the reputation of being difficult to deal with.

“I have a good relationship with my team and I take pride in being a great teammate,” Rondo said. “I think we’re still on the same page. When you lose, things get blown out of proportion. When you win, it covers everything up. So we have to get back to winning basketball.”

His teammates have been supportive both behind the scenes and publicly, and were happy to have him back despite not being able to quell the losing streak.

“It was good. That's our starting point guard. We need veteran guys on this team,” Bulls guard Dwyane Wade said. “We need our bodies. He's our leader today so when we got down early he was the one who kept talking to us defensively. He's so smart out there on the floor, takes certain things away, get out in open transition. The reason we got back in the game, he did a good job of leading us in those moments.”